|Title:||The Final Weekend: A Stoned Tale|
|Publisher:||M & S Publishing|
|Date of publication:||2019|
|Disclaimer:||This novel was kindly sent to me by the author Neal Cassidy in exchange for an honest review.|
If you’re in your thirties as I am you have probably spent a considerable amount of time remembering your twenties with a mixture of both sweet nostalgia and dread. Every day is singular and there is almost nothing you cannot accomplish, and that’s only if you have the foresight to have even considered accomplishing anything at all. Consider waking up and being in your early twenties again, and this is pretty much the mindset you need to have when reading Neal Cassidy’s novel of unrestrained debauchery The Final Weekend: A Stoned Tale.
A group of friends are planning their last weekend together before they all disperse after college and go off into the world to pursue their individual lives. Their plan for this weekend is not profound nor highly ambitious, but rather simple: to get as drunk and as stoned as they possibly can whilst reminiscing over the years spent together. It is as simple as that.
Schroeder lives with his girlfriend and sells weed to his friends. His girlfriend is never referred to by name, but only as ‘Schroeder’s girlfriend’ which could initially be seen as problematic, if it wasn’t so telling of the nature of this beast that is the novel The Final Weekend. Schroeder is much like every other ‘slacker-type’ character whose major selling point is that at least he holds some sort of career as a purveyor of things euphoria-inducing. Trent has not so much lost, but tossed more jobs away than seems possible for someone so damn unlikable – it is not the loss of gainful employment that is surprising but rather the fact that he managed to be employed in the first place. Clarence who has been at a police academy will finally be starting his first job as a policeman after this last weekend with his friends, and is mocked incessantly for his choice of profession despite it being clear how proud they all are of the most accomplished member of the group. Justin is the quiet ‘good guy’, whilst Harry, the instigator of all things ‘party’ is a charming ladies man, with a penchant for referring to women by their physical attributes. Ling-Ling and Courtney are the only women, and while Ling-Ling is the virgin of the group, Courtney is outrageously open about her sexuality. And then there is Goodkat, or Professor Goodkat to the students whom he either sleeps with or buys narcotics from, whose moral yardstick is frankly non-existent.
The novel takes place over the course of two evenings with this particular group reminiscing over their time spent together whilst consuming as much alcohol and marijuana as they possibly can. The point of view switches between each character as the weekend progresses and the group becomes more and more aware of their own limited time together. Whilst sitting together they make very casual observations about the world around them. None of these observations are particularly profound nor life-changing which I like to interpret as being rather indicative of a generation of twenty-somethings whose identities have been created on a diet of social media and internet gags.
Cassidy’s characters are not particularly likeable, but this is perhaps the point. In a world that prides itself on baseless opinions and selfies and Instagram profiles, it is entirely fitting that this particular group of people would appear shallow and flat, and completely naïve and ignorant of what lies around the next corner. In this brief moment in time the reader is the proverbial ‘fly on the wall’ to the shattered illusions of youth, or at least the potential shattering of a few people whose lives are insignificant to the untrained eye.
This is not to say that the characters and indeed the plot is without sparks of genius as is made obvious in the restaurant scene with Ling-Ling’s ‘Grandma’ who is rude, crude and downright offensive, but so damn likeable. In fact there are loads of encounters with our protagonists that spark both hilarity and morbidity.
Regardless of whether you can relate to the friend’s sexual exploits or their skills at manufacturing marijuana joints in the shapes of wild animals, or their combined ability to conjure up pranks and jokes remarkably quickly, this novel is but a brief moment in time that doesn’t require too much interpretation. It is what it is. Cassidy has brilliantly put his literary finger on what I can only describe as the ‘death-pulse’ of a generation that lacks both perspective and any desire to change the world – at least not yet. In the spirit of Irvine Welsh, Douglas Coupland and Brett Easton Ellis, Cassidy and his merry band of degenerates are a refreshing take on contemporary life.