Maggie is 29 years old, working on a PhD she is not actually all that interested in, and now about to be divorced – after only 608 days of marriage her nine-year relationship has come to an end. Jon has left, he has taken the cat, and frankly most of the money. Maggie can hardly afford to rent in Toronto and her addiction to online shopping doesn’t make it any easier for her. What does help are her friends (the group chat) and her mentor-employer-supervisor, a peculiar elderly professor who takes the lost girl under her wing. Though she hardly admits it to herself, Maggie is firmly in the grip of depression, she stumbles through various phases of grief at the loss of her relationship. Refusing therapy, she throws herself into new hobbies, friendships and eventually the world of online dating. Between one-night stands and 4am hamburger deliveries, she slowly grapples with the truth that the life is what happens while you’re busy making other plans. Questions of responsibility and a deep sense of shame and personal failure pull her down, make her defensive and withdrawn. Until, slowly but surely, the road towards recovery emerges before her and she takes careful, but determined steps towards figuring out life on her own.
Monica Heisey’s debut novel is funny and heart-warming, though at times infuriating. In Maggie, she has created a self-aware and sarcastic character who speaks the language of many a millennial. Her jokes are charming, often self-deprecating, but sometimes just a little bit too much. The humour is quick and witty, and works well as Maggie’s coping mechanism but it does occasionally take away from deeper explorations of the emotions the end of a relationship can cause. Where the novel excels is in its observations of the online-verse. Heisey shows us the self-centred, hyper-aware millennial from a critical, but benevolent perspective. She has the reader chuckle at her characters, but never accuses them of any crime but trying to enjoy their lives the best they can. Heisey makes excellent use of DMs, Google searches and Tinder anecdotes, accelerating the reading experience and lightening the mood. She proves herself to be at home in this world, where opinions and personalities need to be expressed in 240-characters or less. Social media feels at home in Really Good, Actually, something I find is not often achieved. Though it does lack depth at times and certain passages could have benefitted from more rigorous editing to avoid repetition, Monica Heisey’s debut is a smart and charming novel that I really enjoyed, actually.
Out now, published by 4th Estate