‘All Grown Up’ by Jami Attenberg – A Single Woman’s Unruly Days

‘All Grown Up’ by Jami Attenberg   (2017) – 197 pages

If novels are slices of life, and I do believe they are, then the slice of life depicted in ‘All Grown Up’ is that of a single thirty-nine year old heterosexual woman living in New York City today. Her name is Andrea.  She was born in New York City, left town to go to art school, but moved back again.  Now she has a well-paying job in advertising, where the meetings are “intensely dull, soul-deadening”.  Andrea has a view of the Empire State Building from her apartment window which she draws each morning to keep up with her interest in art.

She dates men she meets through the Internet with the usual chaotic results.  After one drunken encounter, Andrea says, “This is not a date, this is an audition for a play about a terrible date.”

When a book by a woman is published about being single, everyone she knows including her mother tries to push it on Andrea, but she has no interest in reading about the plight of a single woman because “There is nothing this book can teach me about being single that I don’t already know.”

In ‘All Grown Up’, Andrea asks such timely questions as “What if I don’t want to hold your baby?”, “Can I date you without ever hearing about your divorce?”, and “Why does everybody keep asking me why I’m not married?”

With her ironic and dry perspective on things, Andrea projects a lot of humor.  However there is also sadness.  Her one year old niece has a severe birth defect and could die at any moment.  Because we do not really get to know the baby’s parents, the baby’s plight is not as poignant as it otherwise might have been.

Andrea can be difficult and selfish; she is by no means perfect, maybe more like a real woman. I give points to ‘All Grown Up’ for its amusing sincerity, but I did not feel that it transcended the daily here-and-now of this one person. Perhaps if there were another major character that could have interacted with Andrea as equals, not just someone for her to bounce her quips off of, the novel would have been more effective.  As it is, none of the other characters besides Andrea is developed beyond the sketchy. The novel could have used more dialogue so we might have gotten to really know the others rather than only as comic foils for Andrea.

 

Grade :   B

 

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2 responses to this post.

  1. It sounds like a character in search of a story. I don’t think the state of being single, (or married, or partnered) is enough as a storyline, because I don’t think it’s enough as a life. Maybe if she made herself an interesting life, the desired love interest might turn up, but if not, at least she’d have an interesting life…

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply

    • Hi Lisa,
      I totally agree with you. ‘All Grown Up’ would have been much better if it had an actual plot. A slice of life is not sufficient. It also could have used some more involving characters besides the narrator.
      I hope your wounded wing is better.

      Like

      Reply

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