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The Globe and Mail (March 13, 1999)
by H.J. Kirchhoff
With the publication of his first novel, Generation X, Vancouver writer Douglas Coupland became something of a literary guru for the now-thirtysomething demographic group that became associated with that book's title. In Girlfriend in a Coma, his seventh novel, he is still dealing with that generation's alienation, disaffection and ennui, but this time he takes more chances with plot and character. It's a dark, cold night in December, 1979, and 17-year-old Karen Ann McNeil has just made love for the first time with her boyfriend, Richard, after which the two discuss the possibilities for the future. Within hours, Karen has lapsed into a coma, possibly caused by combining pills and booze, possibly for some more metaphysical reason. Nine months later, her daughter Megan is born, but Karen stays unconscious -- or is she, really? -- for 18 years. Her friends break up, move away, return and come back together, and when she awakens, in 1997, she becomes something of a guru herself. Coupland articulates the anxieties and concerns of a generation, and he deserves to be read for that if nothing else.