Book Review: The First Bad Man by Miranda July

I originally started this book back in October, sitting in the Vancouver International Airport, waiting to board my flight back home. I got to about page 40 before I set it aside, determined to finish my Classics Reading Challenge before I dove into other books. So, there it sat on my bookshelf for one too many months. Until this last Thursday, Feb 11. That lunch break and then later that night, I read over a 100 pages. I quickly finished the book last night.

And so that brings us to the review.

21412400SynopsisCheryl Glickman believes in romances that span centuries and a soul that migrates between babies. She works at a women’s self-defense nonprofit and lives alone. When her bosses ask if their twenty-year-old daughter, Clee, can move into her house for a while, Cheryl’s eccentrically ordered world explodes. And yet it is Clee the selfish, cruel blond bombshell who bullies Cheryl into reality and, unexpectedly, leads her to the love of a lifetime.

Tender, gripping, slyly hilarious, infused with raging sexual fantasies and fierce maternal love, Miranda July’s first novel confirms her as a spectacularly original, iconic, and important voice today, and a writer for all time.

I’ll be honest, I wasn’t sure I would know where to start or if I would be able to articulate my feelings and thoughts about this book. I went into Miranda July’s first novel thinking it was going to be a story about Cheryl’s sexual awakening and a great love that she yearns for. It didn’t turn out that way, not really; this story does delve into sexuality, love, relationships, abandonment, and motherhood and the ups and downs for each of those.

I do know that if I had continued to read this book when I first started it, I would have finished this book in a couple days without a doubt. Miranda July’s writing is beautiful and in this book she adds just a touch of eccentricity. It’s written in Cheryl’s point of view, which I’ll admit was sometimes hard for me since there were parts that I found hard to relate to – whether it was because she’s in her forties or because she views the world very differently than I do.

But July executed Cheryl’s voice and illustrating that eccentricity very well. I may have had trouble connecting, but at the same I felt like I could clearly see through Cheryl’s eyes and gain at least a little understanding of who she is as a character.

Clee on the other hand, was a character I instantly disliked. The summary says it all, she’s a 21-year-old selfish and cruel blonde bombshell. She storms into Cheryl’s home, and ultimately life, and upends the carefully structured order Cheryl created.

In the beginning, I see Clee has just an annoying house guest for Cheryl who doesn’t respect Cheryl or her house. But then, in the middle, things change. Their relationship changes. They weirdly enter into a balance that benefits the both of them, in very different ways. When this new relationship formed between the two, I got a little lost; I wasn’t sure how I felt about it. But looking back after finishing the novel, I think in some weird way Clee was being the mother and pushing Cheryl into reality, to accept what the reality was and not be so afraid anymore.

That role quickly disappeared when the relationship change once again. In a way that I did not like, but I believe it had to occur in order for Cheryl to come to the end in the way she did. After this change of roles, I once again strongly disliked Clee – her behavior and decisions, particularly surrounding one main event. To avoid spoiling the book, I won’t discuss what that event is.

Only that it was what ultimately lead Cheryl to the love of a lifetime. One she did not know she yearned for since she was young until that love was in her arms.

As for the supporting characters, they seemed to float in and out around Cheryl, and Clee, only arriving when they were needed, but it worked for this novel. They arrived to help cultivate a new event or understanding on Cheryl’s part of the world that surrounds her and when their part was done, they left.

Overall, I did really enjoy reading this book. It was strange and odd in many places, but it all blended well with July’s beautifully executed writing. If you want an interesting adult fiction read or maybe a different character voice to read, Miranda July’s The First Bad Man is a great choice.

Happy Reading!


I’ve made some changes in my menu, so they now include my reading challenges under Book Love. You can find this post in a link to the new A to Z challenge page.


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