By now you could fill a shelf with all the books detailing the problems with straight relationships. It was therefore a much-needed breath of fresh air to read Monica Heisey’s Really Good, Actually. A hilarious novel which, apart from a few jibes about the failure of the ‘heterosexual experiment’, is more concerned with the relationship we have with ourselves than detailing toxic masculinity and the atrocities of men.
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Maggie is spiralling. She’s 28, about to become a divorcee, and her friends are either eternally single or heading down the matrimonial path she has already failed at. Despite her marital status putting her at odds with her peers, Maggie is incredibly relatable. She gets her validation from the resoundingly favourable responses to vague tweets about men being trash, and growing up in the early 2000s with its heroin chic has given her a tumultuous relationship with her body. Maggie, like many of us, is so used to pinning her problems on late-stage capitalism, or the return of the low-rise jean, that she struggles to hold herself accountable.
Heisey’s debut has the Nora Ephron touch – it feels destined for dramatisation. That’s not surprising given Heisey’s experience as a scriptwriter, notably on Schitt’s Creek. However, Heisey uses her knowledge of sitcom tropes to mislead her audience, turning what could be a predictable novel about a broken women into a joyously uncertain ride. Really Good, Actually explores heartbreak and self-improvement with an engaging comedic voice. A perfect start to the new year for those of us too cynical for empty resolutions and in need of a more realistic narrative to inspire us.
Billie Walker is a freelance writer
Really Good, Actually by Monica Heisey is out now (Harper Collins, £14.99). You can buy it from The Big Issue shop on Bookshop.org, which helps to support The Big Issue and independent bookshops.