Really Good, Actually
NOW ON SALE
A hilarious and painfully relatable debut novel about one woman’s messy search for joy and meaning in the wake of an unexpected breakup.
Maggie is fine. She’s doing really good, actually. Sure, she’s broke, her graduate thesis on something obscure is going nowhere, and her marriage only lasted 608 days, but at the ripe old age of twenty-nine, Maggie is determined to embrace her new life as a Surprisingly Young Divorcée™.
Now she has time to take up nine hobbies, eat hamburgers at 4 am, and “get back out there” sex-wise. With the support of her tough-loving academic advisor, Merris; her newly divorced friend, Amy; and her group chat (naturally), Maggie barrels through her first year of single life, intermittently dating, occasionally waking up on the floor and asking herself tough questions along the way.
Laugh-out-loud funny and filled with sharp observations, Really Good, Actually is a tender and bittersweet comedy that lays bare the uncertainties of modern love, friendship, and our search for that thing we like to call “happiness”. This is a remarkable debut from an unforgettable new voice in fiction.
“My marriage ended because I was cruel. Or because I ate in bed. Or because he liked electronic music and difficult films about men in nature. Or because I did not. Or because I was anxious, and this made me controlling.” READ AN EXCERPT »
“Readers will gobble up this Bridget Jones’s Diary for the smartphone era.”
“A tender yet sharp novel that tells the heartbreaking and hilarious tales of a young woman going through a divorce.”
New York Times bestselling author of Sweetbitter
“One of the most hilarious and barbed accounts of unexpectedly starting over I’ve ever read.”
#1 NY Times bestselling author of A Slow Fire Burning
“I absolutely loved it, it’s so funny and so astute . . . Hilarious, heartwarming, wise.”
“Smart, bighearted, and hilarious…[I Can’t Believe It’s Not Better] stands out both because it’s laugh-out-loud funny and because of the artful way Heisey reveals that her heroine is most definitely not OK.”
“I loved it — it made me laugh a million times.
Read an Excerpt
My marriage ended because I was cruel. Or because I ate in bed. Or because he liked electronic music and difficult films about men in nature. Or because I did not. Or because I was anxious, and this made me controlling. Or because red wine makes me critical. Or because hunger, stress, and white wine make me critical, too. Or because I was clingy at parties. Or because he smoked weed every day, and I did not think it was “actually the same thing” as my drinking two cups of coffee in the morning. Or because we fell in love too young, and how could our actual lives compare to the idea we’d had of what our lives could be when we were barely twenty and our bodies were almost impossibly firm? Or because we tried non-monogamy for three months in 2011, and it was just fine, not great. Or because he put hot sauce on everything, without tasting it, even if I’d spent hours balancing the flavours from a recipe I’d had to scroll past a long and detailed story about some woman’s holiday to find. Or because he forgot our anniversary once. Or because I did our laundry never. Or because his large Greek family had not quite accepted me as one of their own, even after I learned his yiayia’s favourite poem for her birthday. Or because he walked in on me shitting that time. Or because, in 2015, we attended nine weddings and got carried away, and a big party where everyone told us we were geniuses for loving each other then gave us three thousand dollars seemed like a great idea. Or because we went to Paris and had an argument instead of falling more in love or at least rimming each other. Or because I’d stopped imagining what our children might look like. Or because he’d never started. Or because I was insecure, and sometimes petty. Or because he kept insisting we go vegan, then sneaking pizzas into the apartment while I slept. Or because we finished watching The Sopranos and never started The Wire. Or because when we were first getting together, I’d kissed someone else, and sometimes still thought about her. Or because he was needlessly combative, with a pretentious streak. Or because I was a coward, whose work did not “actively seek to dismantle the state.” Or because I scoffed when he said that and asked about the socialist impact of his latest McDonald’s commercial. Or because he called me a cunt. Or because sometimes, I was one. Anyway, it was over.
Kind of. He’d moved out, taking the cat (for now) and a gaming system and three acoustic guitars. The idea of Jon writing breakup songs in some dark sublet filled me with equal parts deep despair and incredible relief—despair, to think that I had caused him such pain he’d been driven to experimental songwriting; relief, that I wouldn’t have to listen to it.
Not that I begrudged him the impulse. This morning, after he left, I’d almost immediately taken a photo of myself, wanting to “preserve the moment” and entertaining grandiose ideas about this horrible loss marking the start of a very creatively generative time. Maybe I’d take a photo of my face on every significant day for the rest of my life, compiling a gallery’s worth in time for a show on my 80th birthday: my big potato head smiling at a PhD ceremony, weeping at my mother’s funeral, chewing thoughtfully on the first food my child ever cooked, a few boundary-pushing closeups during orgasm to generate some buzz, etc. Instead, I took the picture, saw the bags under my eyes, and downloaded FaceTune. The dark circles felt right, in person. Looking in the mirror I would see them and think: there is a twenty-eight year old who has seen some shit. But in the photo, I realized, I wanted to look hot.
Having him properly out of the house was a relief, not because things felt better or calmer without him, but because the two weeks between “I am going to move out” and “I have rented a van” were some of the longest and slowest of my life. It had been so inconsistent: one day tiptoeing around each other, speaking in the stilted tones of new colleagues on a work retreat, then slipping into old habits and kissing goodbye, eating off each other’s plates, fucking. Every time we fell back into some old way of being—so easy, so familiar—I wondered if we were going to write off the whole thing as a few bad months, but one night he came home with some boxes, and we had to decide whose records were whose and what to do about the piece of shit couch we’d bought barely a year ago. The warranty on history’s worst sofa had outlasted our marriage.
We both swore neither of us had Seen It Coming. After all, we did not have the major problems that led to this kind of thing. There were some problems, sure: in addition to the eating in bed, I had no indoor voice and did not respect his fridge organisation system; he had a temper and wanted us to take up running. But we weren’t unhappy, just unsatisfied… until suddenly we were so, so unhappy, and we couldn’t laugh, and we couldn’t have sex, and we couldn’t order Thai food without looking at the other person like, who are you, staring at the stranger we’d chosen at age 19 and 19 and a half, respectively, and not hating them, exactly, but wondering if they died without warning—of natural causes or in some kind of horrible accident, not that that would be good, of course, it would be a tragedy . . . but if it did happen—if maybe life would be easier. The words slipped out of my mouth one night at dinner: “Is this working?” Neither of us had an answer, which seemed an answer itself.
It had been working, or seemed to work, for almost a decade. Jon and I fell in love at university, his cheerful nihilism a surprising complement to my chronic nervous overthinking. We’d been friends first (important, everyone says!), and even had exciting, slutty freshman years before realizing sometime in the first semester of second year that not only did we get along great, we were also deliriously horny for each other. We attached ourselves at the mouths and genitals and didn’t unlatch until graduation. We liked enough of the same things and made each other laugh, and our arguments were only as dramatic as the arguments of all our other twentysomething friends. We took modest vacations and met each other’s parents. Eventually we moved in together—we’d been dating the right amount of time and neither of us could afford to live alone. We painted part of a wall with chalkboard paint. There were poorly judged birthday gifts and petty jealousies and one or two mild betrayals, but mostly there was comfort and an easy understanding. After six years of date nights and pet ownership and learning how to make a carbonara there was simply nothing else to do. Jon said, “What do you think, Maggie,” and I said “Yeah, okay”; and so we got married, because everyone else was, and because nothing being particularly wrong felt, at the time, like everything was right.