Ah, your late 20s. You thought you would feel like an adult when you were eighteen, and that was obviously a joke. But now that you’re here, you’re finally feeling like you may just have this adult thing figured out. You’ve got a great group of friends, and you’ve all agreed that you don’t need to start the night at 10 p.m. anymore. Well, at least not every night. You may not love your job, but you don’t hate it, either. And you even make enough money to not stress over every purchase, finally. You’re almost even looking forward to turning 30, because everyone says your 30s are better than your 20s, don’t they?
Then, something pulls you back to reality, like the man you have been with for your entire adult life, the man you happily married only a year and a half ago, leaving you. Well, that’s what happens if you’re Maggie in Monica Heisey’s debut novel, Really Good, Actually, anyway.
So move over, Bridget Jones and Becky Bloomwood. Because there’s a new mess in town, and this Surprisingly Young Divorcée™ will have you laughing and crying along with her as she spends a completely normal amount of time questioning every decision she’s ever made.
Here are all the reasons why it’s time to meet Maggie of Really Good, Actually.
The Unfiltered Narration
Maggie knows she’s the main character of this story, and she has every right to be. After all, her husband has left her, taken their cat with him, and broken all contact with her, even though Ontario law means they can’t file for a divorce until they’ve been separated for a year. Her graduate thesis is going nowhere, she doesn’t have the patience for her students, and she has no idea how she can afford her now half-furnished apartment without Jon.
So, yeah. Maggie has a lot of things to figure out, and she doesn’t hold back as she takes us along for the ride. We are given access to every single one of her thoughts, from the embarrassment she feels whenever she orders a burger at 4am to the question of why men who live alone never have curtains to the judgements she’s quick to make of others but never say out loud.
Reading this book feels like reading your thoughts in some type of distanced way that lets you appreciate them for their sheer honesty and surprising humor. It feels like talking to your absolute best friend, the one you know you can say absolutely anything to and she’ll still be there for you, no matter what.
Let me just say this: I was laughing so hard while reading this book that my husband thought I was watching cat videos. But, no. I was just reading this book on my phone.
The Entertaining Interstitials
Interstitials are little vignettes inserted between chapters that break the traditional narrative of a story. Unsuccessful ones will pull you out of the story world, but successful ones will enhance your reading experience. And the interstitials in Really Good, Actually are the best I’ve ever read.
They run the gambit, covering everything from “Selected Correspondence, Tinder” to “Reasons I Cried” to “Emotionally Devastating Things My Therapist Said to Me Like They Were Nothing.” My favorites were the Google searches, which are exactly what they sound like: a list of Google searches from a particular day. Having recently made risotto for the first time, I got a real kick out of “risotto recipe easy” immediately followed by “arborio rice replacement.” And the series of searches on Kate Bush was reminiscent of what we all were doing after binging Stranger Things last summer.
The Juxtaposition of Divorce and Modern Dating
I am one of those annoying girls who met her husband working at a grocery store at seventeen. I have, therefore, never been on a dating app, and I can find myself lost when I’m hanging out with friends who can go all night talking about nothing else. And while the horrors and delights of modern dating can absolutely be found here, this book is also the perfect read for people in long term relationships.
I easily related to Maggie when she reminisced on her time with her husband. How she couldn’t imagine how different her life would be if she hadn’t been with him. How she had gotten so used to always having someone there to help decide what was for dinner and fill her Sundays with. How she wasn’t sure what to do with all of the thoughts in her head now that she couldn’t share them with Jon whenever she wanted to.
And what I loved the most about Maggie’s re-entrance—or just plain entrance—into the dating world is that it gives her the opportunity to truly explore her bisexuality for the first time. Having been with a man since she was nineteen, Maggie says she isn’t bisexual “enough to count,” and I felt that in my bones.
The Diverse Friend Group
Maggie could be doing better with her romantic relationships, but she certainly has no lack of friends. There’s her group chat with her closest friends from university: lightly frazzled and emotionally turbulent Amirah, large and elegant and gay Clive, never-cries Lauren, and cries-at-everything Emotional Lauren. Then there’s Amy, a new friend who is also going through a divorce (though Maggie is quick to point out that it’s a little different because Amy was with her husband for four years, not ten). And there’s Merris, Maggie’s seventy-something-year-old academic advisor who ends up becoming much more than a colleague.
As Maggie navigates her separation, she certainly makes some missteps when it comes to her friends. But they’re all there for her through it all, as all good friends are.
So whether you’re single or taken, feeling like an adult or not so sure about that, in your 20s or in your 30s, it’s time to grab a copy of Really Good, Actually by Monica Heisey. Just make sure you’re prepared to laugh and cry your way through Maggie’s story.