This is a city girl book that will speak to any girl who has gone another way through her twenties and thirties. The setting moves between New York City, Chicago, and New Hampshire, and our main character Andrea has to navigate her own addictions, relationships, passions, and obligations in a world where nothing really seems to matter very much.
Her father was a heroin addict and she battles with her own addictions, mainly to alcohol, and primarily after her father passes away from an overdose in their home. He haunts her because she loved him so much, and he was torn from her so suddenly. So we see her dealing with pain with a glass of wine or something else of that nature.
Something about the book that the casual reader might take for drowning out the feelings is her tendency to bounce from man to man, but I chose to view this as her being an independent woman who enjoys sex. It is difficult to get past that societal stigma of women who have sex with many men equaling sluts, but we’ve got to start somewhere. She gets a (treatable) STD in one of the chapters that deals with her twenties, but otherwise she is pretty safe.
Her family is complicated. Her mom ran $10 spaghetti supper-type dinners for “men” after the death of Andrea’s father, and so when she would arrive home from school there would be men of all ages lying everywhere in their apartment, cloaked in the sight and scent of marijuana smoke. She is poked and prodded and once almost raped (which causes her mom to finally open her eyes and stop the dinners) but thankfully these money making endeavors never cause any major harm.
Her brother marries a woman that she idolizes and respects, and they have a daughter that is terminally ill and uses up all their savings and never grows very much and they have to move to New Hampshire to be closer to a hospital and to be able to afford to live. Andrea doesn’t deal with this development well, and doesn’t go to visit very often or even help very much. I’m not sure if she views this as the baby stealing her family from her or just that it’s too stressful to take, but either way she avoids dealing with this situation for almost the entire book.
Outside of family and fucking and drinking we see her interact with many different individuals and she has the typical exchange that women who don’t get married/don’t have kids tend to have with people who don’t understand that marriage and children aren’t a necessity or a requirement for womanhood anymore. It’s frustrating and irritating and somehow despite her knowledge that this is who she is, she walks away from these encounters feeling demeaned and diminished. The one thing she holds true to through the entire book is the fact that she has no interest in marriage or children, and not in that “doth protest too much” kind of way but a “this is just my day to day life” kind of way.
The aspect of the book that won my heart was her departure from being an artist. She went to school for it, it was what she worked for her entire life, and then suddenly it just wasn’t. It’s something she pines for, but then realizes it’s just never coming back no matter how much she wants it, and then she tries to have a piece of that by buying art or going to museums or sketching casually, but these all just remind her that she was going to be an artist, and it makes her melancholy again. Facing this idea that going to college and reaching your late twenties/early thirties having accomplished nothing that you wanted and are suddenly faced with the decision what now then? is something I think more people my age are dealing with than we hear about. I lived this very timeline and I count myself lucky that even though I despise it, I have a degree with job opportunities that I can take advantage of while I figure my shit out. But the world is not suddenly solved because you majored in the thing you loved, because you pursued your goal with passion. Reality is a real bitch, and she’s a bigger bitch to my generation and I can’t imagine the cunt she’s about to be to the next.
Go find and read this book. It’s a 200 page, 1 day read that will make you realize that you are not alone and that maybe everything’s going to be okay, even if it’s not in the way you imagined it.
[…] All Grown Up – Jami Attenberg […]
[…] I went out and got lunch and some snackies at the local Publix, and then managed to write another 1100 words for my novel. Check out #1000wordsofsummer on Twitter. It’s a pretty cool hashtag for motivating people to write so if you’re interested in joining me you are more than welcome. The hashtag is sponsored by Jami Attenberg, author of AAB favorite All Grown Up. […]
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