This is a delightful read, poignant, gently humorous and ultimately life-affirming. For those that are a little bruised by life, the cynics of the happy-ever-after myth, it is nonetheless a novel that suggests life can in fact be better than just bearable.
Useful is tinged with black humour, tackling the big issues like depression, suicide and self-worth. Hardly topics you normally associate with humour, but this is handled in just the right way. A quirky drama that avoids falling into cloyingly sweet sentimentality.
Here's how things kick off: Sullivan Moss, our hapless protagonist, wakes up hung over and chastened in a hospital bed after attempting suicide, not successfully as it turns out. He's pretty much at rock bottom, even finding the exit to his miserable life hasn't worked.
This is when he stumbles across a genius idea: he will become a living kidney donor. And so begins his quest to find some meaning and garner some sense of self-respect from the detritus of his life.
This is a gentle read, with enough stuffing to make it interesting. Fans of Nick Hornby, particularly his novel A long way down, will especially enjoy this book.
Author: Debra Oswald
Publisher: Penguin Australia 2015