Really Good, Actually by Monica Hessey Review – Comedy about newly single life | Imaginary

aOf the 43 most stressful events the average adult may experience in their lifetime, “divorce” and “spousal separation” rank 2 and 3, respectively, falling between “marital death” and “imprisonment.” (“Holidays” and “frequent family reunions” also make the list—helpful to remember in the aftermath of the holiday season.) It’s a nugget of folk psychology used by Maggie, the heroine of Monica HesseyIn fact, her debut novel “Really Good” will be familiar.

Maggie’s story is a story of divorce, depression, and the road to recovery. She’s 29, a doctoral student living in Toronto who is married — at the beginning of the book, at least — to her long-term partner, the stable and solvent John. When he’s out, he takes the cat with him, well-meaning friends and colleagues gather, suggesting online dating, therapy, and new hobbies. A surprising number mentions kintsugi, the Japanese art of mending broken things. Maggie compiles a list of them all with mocking mock weariness.

Lists are a Magi thing. She begins, “My marriage ended because I was tough. Or he ate in bed. Or because he liked electronic music and tough movies about guys in nature. And because I didn’t.” Hessie gives Maggie a cynical self-awareness that sits alongside her appropriate sadness. It makes Really Good, indeed, a clever and funny novel about divorce, a story of self-reckoning with a beloved heroine to root for. Heisey has earned her writing lines in television, including On Sheet Creek, and appears in a book full of millennial wit and reliably regular deadpan turns. But the seemingly indefatigable ease of jokes and self-deprecating comedy can wear off, too. He risks a certain apathy, allowing Hezy to skate past the more serious fears buried within the book: the deep feelings of brokenness and loss that come on the heels of a failed relationship. She is often glanced at, before inevitably giving way to a joke.

That doesn’t make Maggie an unreliable narrator of her consciousness, exactly. Instead, Heisey provides us with alternative routes to the inside of a very online millennial who is ironically removed from her emotional reality and constantly exposes herself. On the morning John left, Maggie takes a selfie of her sad face and immediately downloads Facetune to correct the dark circles under her eyes. The chapters consist entirely of Google search history terms (“24 hour delivery toronto”, “dial a bottle toronto”, “what is tiktok”, “kate bush this woman’s work karaoke”, “how delebe tiktok”, etc.) which read like Navigation path in her mind.

Sure, there’s a lot of confidence in Heisey’s storytelling style via texting and Tinder messaging, but exchanging instant messages in the age of online dating can also read like comic sketches, hindering real viewability. Which is a shame, because Heisey clearly understands that for modern singles navigating the online dating market, the struggle is real. Heisey explores loneliness in the age of the Internet, the vulnerability of solitude in a culture that values ​​relationships, and the fear and helplessness of separation that hits Maggie like a blow.

Maggie early on describes sleeping in an empty bed, reaching for the warm, familiar mass of a partner’s body, and discovering only nothingness. “When this happened, I felt in order: stupid; sad; disappointed; I was vindicated when I remembered that something similar had happened to Joan Didion in The Year of Magical Thinking.” There’s no delusion of grandeur here—”I wasn’t an incredibly elegant voice for a generation that lost the love of its life”—but there is an awareness of the deep trauma of the breakup; Feeling how painful the breakdown of a relationship can be.

Somewhere in the midst of Maggie’s adventures–the flirtations with duplicity, the lessons of frenzied spinning, the recreational ax-throwing–she grapples with the question of responsibility. Is separation a matter of personal failure? And how does one make peace with that for the rest of their lives? Between jokes, Maggie is still working.

Really good, already published by Monica Heisey by 4th Estate (£14.99). To support Guardian and Observer, order your copy at Delivery charges may apply.

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