Really Good, Actually by Monica Heisey: ‘Is everything okay?’

Cover image for Really Good, Actually by MonicaHeiseyI’m not the target market for Monica Heisey’s Really Good, Actually but occasionally I find myself seduced by hype, wanting to know what all the fuss is about. For those who don’t already know, Heisey is a comedian and Schitt’s Creek scriptwriter. Her debut covers a year in twenty-nine-year-old Maggie’s life after her husband takes her at her word, packs up his belongings and leaves, taking Janet the cat with him.

Anyone trying to comfort me had been dealt an impossible task: too much attention and care felt like pity, not enough was proof that I was worthless and no one wanted to be around me

There’s no particular reason why Maggie suggested Jon might leave. Things had just fizzled out after ten years together, less than two married. Once he’s gone, Maggie goes to pieces, barely leaving the house, failing to turn up to work, obsessively scrolling and checking Jon’s social media profiles. Even her usually supportive pals are close to giving up on her, fed up with her increasingly bad behaviour and refusal to seek help. She’s eventually pulled out of the mire by Amy, a divorcee determined to see the positive in life, who seizes her phone, downloads Tinder and sets her off on a stream of dates which rarely last longer than a night. Maggie’s never lived alone and doesn’t know how to do it. She’s broke, not particularly enamoured of her job as a research assistant to a literature professor, at risk of annoying just about everyone who knows her, obsessed with how she looks and addicted to social media. By the end of the novel, a corner seemed to have been turned.

I had probably asked her fewer than three questions about herself this entire year, maybe over our entire relationship  

I very nearly gave up Heisey’s novel after thirty or so pages of Maggie’s dive into a self-absorption which risked becoming tedious but then her sardonic narrative became addictive. Heisey’s not afraid to poke fun at her own generation but makes some serious points about phone addiction. Sadly, that seems not to be age-related although some of us like to think we’re more self-aware about it having not grown up with the internet as our constant companion. There are some very funny set-piece scenes as you’d expect from a comic screenwriter and I enjoyed the lists that punctuate Maggie’s narrative, making me smirk and, occassionally, laugh out loud. A year is a satisfying narrative arc to follow but Heisey’s novel was too long for me. A much more enjoyable read than I’d expected at the start but not one for those who prefer to steer clear of snark.

Fourth Estate: London 9780008511722 384 pages Hardback (Read via NetGalley)

37 thoughts on “Really Good, Actually by Monica Heisey: ‘Is everything okay?’”

  1. Well, your appraisal has moved the book from the ‘Shan’t read it’ pile to the ‘Might read this if I come across it’ pile. I suspect you’ll think that’s fair enough?

  2. Interesting. The phone addiction theme is one that’s standing out to me. As you say, it may not be age related, and one can’t tell when it sneaks up on you even when you are aware.

    1. I have to put my hand up as you’ve probably gathered. Google now sends me a summary of which app I’ve spent most time on which should be helpful but somehow isn’t apart from a momentary blip of shame!

  3. I had this one in my sights for my Women’s Prize predictions. It sounds like the kind of lighter read that might make the longlist. I’d been avoiding it based on the cover and hype, but knowing that you read it and at least somewhat enjoyed it makes me think I might give it a try via the library.

    1. Given how fast you read, I think you’d race through it. I wonder if you’re right about the Women’s Prize. As you may remember, my own list is all about wishes so although I quite enjoyed it I won’t be including it.

  4. I do like a bit of snark, I have to admit. And my daughter is a huge fan of Schitt’s Creek. Hmm… Maybe I’ll get her to read it first!

  5. This probably isn’t for me either, but I’m glad you got something out of it! I think it would suit some of my subscription readers (once the paperback is available) as the humour sounds pretty effective. (I also hope they keep that cover for the p/b as it really stands out!)

  6. I have never watched Schitt’s Creek despite having it recommended by friends. I rarely read ‘funny’ books for some reason, though I don’t dislike humour, still this one might not be for me.

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