(Contains spoilers, intended soley for influential
people who can help the book get published.)
The Funnercise Handbook follows reclusive medical transcriptionist, Cordon Pruitt, as accidentally writes a best selling self-help book based on Funnercise, the exercise program that doesn't require any exercise. As Cordon puts it, "Funnercise is never about the easy way out. It's about the slightly harder way out."
Cordon rises to stardom with help from Robin Flowerdew, a trauma doctor whose work he has transcribed. Dr. Flowerdew edits the book, writes an introduction and convinces her friend Elleni Petrakis, the dilettante daughter of an influential Greek mob boss, to get the book published.
Cordon, the innocent creature that he is, falls in love with Doctor Flowerdew. Flowerdew is tempted to respond to Cordon's affection. Ultimately, her demanding job forces her to decline his advances. That and the fact that Cordon is a slab of prime weirdo
When his love is not reciprocated, Cordon rejects fame, becomes a hermit, and begins practicing Funnercise to the exclusion of all other things, including hygiene.
In a parallel plot, a misanthropic inventor named Kiyong Chong kidnaps his dopey roommate, Jerry Linkenbach, to a Rocky Mountain hideout where he forces Jerry to assist him in building a perpetual motion machine.
Within moments of flipping the switch and subsequently celebrating the operation of the first successful perpetual motion machine in human history, a lightning strike destroys Kiyong's creation. Shortly thereafter, the inventor suffers a heart attack.
Because Kiyong is wanted by federal authorities for defrauding most of Wyoming in a scheme to raise money for his perpetual motion machine, Jerry is reluctant to take him to a hospital. He instead rushes Kiyong to Denver and knocks on the door of his friend, Robin Flowerdew, begging for help.
Flowerdew, who has recently been fired from her job at Saint Joseph 's hospital for screaming at a television reporter who tried to interview her about a dead girl, agrees to aid Kiyong. Upon conducting an exam, Dr. Flowerdew proclaims that Kiyong will die within hours.
Elleni Petrakis, the daughter of the Greek mob boss, happens upon the scene and offers the use of her father's private medical facility. Shortly after moving Kiyong to the mob hospital, Flowerdew receives an ominous phone call from Cordon Pruitt. Fearing that he will hurt himself, Robin Flowerdew runs to Cordon's house and finds him dead. He has committed suicide via Funnercise.
Doctor Flowerdew, taken by a trance-like state, removes Pruitt's heart, brings it to the mob hospital and inserts it in Kiyong's chest.
Although it seems inevitable, Cordon Pruitt (creator of maximum inefficiency) and Kiyong Chong and (inventor of more than 100% efficient machine) never properly meet. This is a cruel, ironic, and metaphorically rich twist.
Nevertheless, in the end, with their bodies broken down, they (and by extension, their ideologically divergent dreams) cannot survive without one another.
The book concludes with Kiyong waking up on the hospital table with Cordon's heart beating in his chest. Before he can speak, Doctor Robin Flowerdew covers his mouth with her hand and kisses him on the forehead.
Thematic Summary: When Cordon realizes that his life as a best-selling author is meaningless without Robin Flowerdew, he gives up. When Kiyong's perpetual motion machine begins to generate limitless energy, he recognizes with bittersweet clarity, that this is the zenith of his life. And then he has a heart attack. When the book ends, Robin Flowerdew has just accomplished the greatest surgical procedure she'll ever undertake. Rather than force upon the reader the decline that will inevitably follow, the book ends on this high point . The moral has something to do with the philosophy of Spinoza but I seem to have forgotten exactly what it was. Something about the ultimate interconnectedness of everything. Here's another one: The only way to come out on top is to know when to stop playing.