Monday, 3 July 2017

All Grown Up by Jami Attenberg

You’re in art school, you hate it, you drop out, you move to New York City. For most people, moving to New York City is a gesture of ambition. But for you, it signifies failure, because you grew up there, so it means you’re moving back home after you couldn’t make it in the world. Spiritually, it’s a reverse commute.

So begins All Grown Up, a quirky novel about what it means to be a single woman in a world of couples and families. It’s one of those books that you pick up and somehow find you’ve read to the bottom of the page and then just keep reading.

The entire first chapter is written in the second person, and somehow this works, before the rest of the book slips into an intimate first person narration, detailing the reverse commute and subsequent ‘growing up’ of Andrea, a failed artist who now slums it in advertising.

In a series of vignettes, Andrea talks about her lifestyle, bad habits and her past – there’s quite a lot of sex – and all the while she debates whether she could ever settle down with one person, buy the house and raise a family, like other ‘grown-ups’. Her own childhood has left her with a bitter taste of what this might entail. Andrea’s brother’s marriage to the wonderful Greta is sorely tested by the birth of their severely disabled daughter.

There’s also a lot of New York here – the apartment lifestyle and the cafés, the subway and the art shows. But throughout all is the warm, witty and ultimately wise voice of Andrea, who is such wonderful company in that New Yorker kind of way. All Grown Up is a brilliantly different read, with a surprisingly moving and thoughtful ending.

Posted by JAM

Catalogue link: All Grown Up

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