TV comedy writer’s debut novel masterfully tells a sustained satirical and blackly comic story
Michael Shashoua / Jester editor-in-chief ; photo
by Gage Skidmore
; photo by Gage Skidmore
Author Kirker Butler might prefer to call his debut novel, “Pretty Ugly,” a satire, but the description “dark comedy” really does it more justice.
“Pretty Ugly,” being published on March 31, tells the story of the Miller family, comprised of husband Ray, who works two nursing jobs, in a hospital and a hospice, to support his wife Miranda’s zealous pageant-mom activities with their daughter Bailey.
Butler draws the reader in very quickly with the dark comedy of Ray indiscriminately popping pills and perpetually looking for an escape from his wife, which he briefly finds with the underage granddaughter of one of his hospice patients. All the main characters – Ray, Miranda, Courtney (the granddaughter), his mother-in-law Joan and even Bailey – carry some vivid flaw that sets them up to inevitably clash with each other and the outside world, which drives the action of the story.
There are some flashes of satire in Butler’s novel, however -- in the portrayal of the children’s pageant world, the other pageant moms and contestants, and a reality TV producer looking to develop shows around all of that. But it’s secondary to the memorable dark comedy produced by the beleaguered Ray Miller character.
Butler comes from the world of television, most notably as a writer for “Family Guy,” but he shows in “Pretty Ugly” that he has the ability to tell a more sustained and elaborate story -- one that will make you keep turning the pages. Whether this novel is dark comedy or satire, those comedic traits grow naturally from the story and the characters, and at the same time propel the reader’s interest through its chapters.
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