Really Good, Actually is an entertaining but ultimately one-note novel by Monica Heisey about the aftermath of a Toronto woman’s separation and her attempt to get her life back on track. Maggie and her husband Jon – together for 10 years, married for two – have decided to split up. Things haven’t been great for a while (though it’s unclear what’ s really wrong) and when Really Good, Actually opens, Jon has just moved out. Maggie is devastated. The book tracks the year after the separation, as Maggie tries to get her life back on track and get over the loss of her marriage.
Why I picked it up: My friend recommended it to me – she said it was very entertaining.
Really Good, Actually has some very funny moments. Heisey is clearly very talented and I laughed out loud several times. Maggie is critical of everyone – herself, her friends, her colleagues – and she constantly makes bad decisions, like buying all kinds of crap when she has no money, sleeping with random guys and being rude to her (very supportive) friends. She’s an entertaining train wreck of a character, and Really Good, Actually felt like a long, funny stand-up routine. But as a full-length novel, it was wearying. Maggie’s constant self-pity and self-absorption grew old pretty quickly and the book was a bit of a slog. I get that her breakup was hard on her, but after a while I just didn’t want to hear about it anymore. I wanted some growth, some perspective, some understanding that it could all be gotten over. And that growth came too late in the book. So while there definitely were funny parts of Really Good, Actually, overall it wasn’t a very satisfying read.
I listened to Really Good, Actually on audio, narrated by Julia Whelan (like at least half of the books I listen to). Whelan was an interesting choice. Her urgent, angry delivery revved Maggie up and made her more strident, while also making the funny parts a little less funny. I wonder what the book might have been like with a different narrator.
Really Good, Actually was the 20th book of 2023 and satisfies the Book Recommended By A Friend category of the 2023 EDIWTB Reading Challenge.