Have you ever had an awful day that you’d love to forget? And then another, and another? Yet you don’t want to admit the pattern to yourself, let alone to anyone around you, so you keep pretending that everything is OK? We’ve all been there, and this empathy is at the heart of Monica Heisey’s debut novel, Really Good, Actually.
As she approaches 30, Maggie has been busy as a graduate student in Toronto, building a life with her new husband—until that disappears in a moment, with the shock of a breakup. She can’t figure out how to move forward, even as everyone around her, from her graduate school adviser to her friends, tries to help her see a way through. She can’t quite pick up the pieces, which readers witness in obsessive emails, Google searches, group chats and conversations. Instead, she tries to convince everyone (particularly herself) that actually, she really is good—even great.
Maggie’s voice is engaging, allowing readers to feel her pain, cringe at her adventures and communication attempts, and root for her to find her footing. She’s a quintessential mess, making decisions that aren’t what anyone would advise, and yet she doesn’t wallow (at least not for too long). We cheer her on, hoping that she’ll figure it all out, or at least some of it.
There’s humor and grace in Really Good, Actually—a lightness of touch, a wry wit. Maggie is a woman disembarking from traditional romance to find herself. And while her marriage might have been short, her voice is enduring, and her journey is engaging, surprising and fresh.