Monica Heisey's (pictured, right) debut novel, really good actually, jumped out to me as soon as I read the synopsis. The relatability of Maggie's confessional voice and her tendency to wrap up her trauma in a humorous, dismissive blanket was something which I felt particularly compelled towards. As soon as I was introduced to her, I felt myself never wanting to say goodbye.
We first meet Maggie as she begins to embark on a new chapter in her life. Having recently come out of a marriage which ended only 608 days after it started, Maggie is in the depths of convincing herself and everyone around her that she is in fact doing really good, actually. After reading her many lists depicting the reasons why she cried in a two-week period (twenty-six in total), you very quickly realise that this is just not the case. There are only so many unanswered emails and texts you can send to your ex-husband, and so many items you can stuff into an online shopping basket that you'll never be able to afford, before it all starts to crumble around you; and that is exactly what we see with Maggie.
Often when I see a book marketed as 'utterly hilarious' and 'laugh out loud funny' I tend to avoid it for fear that I'll actually end up cringing way more than doubling over with laughter. However, this book was different. Maggie gives off the same warmth and hilarity that Helen Fielding was able to convey through her character, Bridget Jones. Only Maggie is much more akin to millennial women, choosing to stuff the pain of loneliness with takeaways and oversharing in the group chat, than actually deal with the problem head-on.
This book surprised me in many ways, but mostly I was taken aback by how much I ended up caring for Maggie as a character. Despite her frustratingly self-deprecating attitude throughout the book, Maggie is actually a very wholesome and sensitive character who just needs to be told it's okay to not be okay.
I think we can all find something of ourselves in Maggie. Though quite confronting to read, she displays emotions and thoughts that I'm sure we have all experienced more than once in our lifetime, though we might not be so quick to admit. Monica has perfectly executed the troubles of love and relationships in modern-day society, and of the ways in which we wrap ourselves up in counterproductive hobbies in the hope of protecting our happiness, when all else is failing.
This debut is an absolute triumph. I am so incredibly excited to hear Monica discuss the writing process at ChipLitFest. The event – and this book – is certainly not one to miss.
Monica Heisey joins Elvin James Mensah (Small Joys) and Georgina Moore (The Garnett Girls) in conversation with Joe Haddow at 12:00-13:00 on Saturday 29 April at the Methodist Church.
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