"Really Good, Actually" | Reviewed by Pat Sainz
Maggie is getting a divorce from her husband of only 18 months although she and Jon have been together since they were university students. She is 28-years-old. Maggie figures her short marriage ended because it evolved into having “two settings: quiet and exasperated.” The couple argued over almost everything, from being parents to who used the last bit of coffee. Their relationship quickly descended from brief contentment to dissatisfaction.
When Maggie falls into grief over her impending divorce, she feels even worse when she realizes that Jon has no interest in having any communication with her. Their monetary assets are limited so nothing is worth fighting over.
Luckily, Maggie has a small circle of close friends who initially support her. But when her obsessions over being single, nearing 30, broke, unhappy with her job as an adjunct professor, dating apps (and dates), consume her every waking moment, friends begin distancing themselves from her. She has no interest in what they are going through and has a hard time relating to any happiness they experience.
Maggie is rescued by Merris, a professor at her university, when Merris, who’s in her 70s, invites Maggie to live in her basement temporarily. Maggie is inadvertently responsible for an event in Merris’s life that affects Merris profoundly. There are consequences for Maggie, too, that force her to confront her behavior and attitude.
One would not expect this novel to be a comedy, and it is, thanks to the author’s keen observations about the effects of a breakup and her portrayal of Maggie as a self-absorbed but truly funny person. Still, the book has serious undertones with themes of loneliness and self-expectations. Maggie’s sarcasms have elements of truth and often blunt her real feelings. Her concerns about her weight, hair, skin, and lack of exercise are relatable. Her therapist even asks her to try to be less of an entertainer and to be more introspective.
The author, Monica Heisey, sets the story in Canada, and she herself is from Toronto. Heisey was a writer for the television series “Schitt’s Creek” so fans of that show will have insight into the tone of the novel.
Readers wishing for a funny, light, bittersweet portrait of a young career woman will enjoy watching Maggie move from self-absorption and confusion to a woman who likely has figured out how to navigate her life in a meaningful way. I enjoyed reading a novel with an uplifting message relayed through humor and insight.