The hero’s journey begins with the call to adventure. Whether it’s Theseus, Odysseus, Luke Skywalker, Dorothy Gale, or Nemo, the hero is always compelled to leave the known world and pushed forward to discover more known worlds.
And so it is with Murgatroyd Floyd Shwet Foo, the hero of Tiffany Tsao’s terrific novel, The Oddfits. Like Michael Jackson, Pee-Wee Herman, and Charlie Brown, Murgatroyd was painfully awkward and alarmingly eccentric. Said the author: “The boy was clearly and unmistakably oddfitting.”
But the boy knew, even at an early age, that “something extraordinarily stupendous was waiting for him.” Little did he know that he would have to wait until he was 25 years old before embarking on his hero’s journey.
In the meantime, Murgatroyd lived an unglamorous life. Not only was he ill-treated by his parents (much like Roald Dahl’s hero, Matilda), but he was also bullied by his employer. Even his best friend didn’t respect him. The only true friend he ever had was the owner of Uncle Yusuf’s Tutti-Frutti Ice Cream Shop. Everyone else dismissed him as “ang moh” (a dumb white guy).
Despite his eccentricities and social deficiencies, Murgatroyd wasn’t truly a dumb white guy. He was an Oddfit, an individual with the power to jump back and forth from the “Known World” and the “More Known World.” This special ability enabled him to explore an unimaginably vast and intricate reality “beyond the limits of perception.”
As it turned out, Murgatroyd wasn’t weird, or stupid, or a “hunchbacked caterpillar.” By traveling to the More Known World, he discovered that there was a place for him in the universe. Finally!
Before embarking on his hero’s quest, however, Murgatroyd had to overcome three big obstacles. First, he had to outwit his conniving parents. For 25 years, they cackled with a mutual pleasure they derived from ruining their son’s life. They weren’t about to release him from their evil clutches.
Secondly, he was being hunted by Ya Sha Shou. The Duck Assassin was a super creepy ninja nutball who was jealous of Murgatroyd’s newfound hero status. “You think it’s so easy to escape your dreary life?” he spat during the pair’s end-of-novel showdown. He wasn’t going to let Murgatroyd travel to the More Known World without a fight.
And finally, there was Seng Kay Huat. When Murgatroyd hung out with his best friend, it was like a magnificent superhero had gotten stuck with a defective and shabby sidekick. “If there were gods and goddesses deigning to live in the world of men,” said the author, “Seng Kay Huat was one such being.”
From birth Kay Huat had lived a charmed life. He was rich and handsome. And like Murgatroyd, he was patiently waiting for his hero’s journey to begin. Sadly (for him), the universe chose Murgatroyd Floyd Shwet Foo instead.
For years Murgatroyd lived in his friend’s oppressive shadow. But the fickle finger of fate turned Seng Kay Huat’s world upside down. “This isn’t about you,” said Murgatroyd at the end of the novel. And there it was. In the novel’s biggest twist, the superhero wasn’t the hero of the story after all.
[The Oddfits / By Tiffany Tsao / First Printing: February 2016 / ISBN: 9781503952621]