We’ve arrived again at that point in our program where I wave around I book I read and say “Look! I read this!” This month’s Blog Book Tour is for Mary Guterson’s We Are All Fine Here. I probably should’ve realized what I was in for when I noticed this cover blurb (from Amy Tan): “A real winner… full of naked truth.”
It’s not just naked truth; it’s sneaky truth. One minute you’re giggling (which, by the way, makes fellow passengers at the Atlanta airport just a wee bit nervous) and the next you’ve been socked in the gut by a piercing view of the human condition. I would like to use something a bit less cliched, here, than “it’s a rollercoaster ride,” but that’s really an apt description. The pace of this novel just keeps zooming along, leaving you trying to catch your breath and unsure if you lost it laughing or crying.
From the back cover:
Julia has been married to Jim for fifteen years, and admittedly, the thrill is mostly gone.
There’s hardly ever been anyone writing about a stale marriage before, right? But you know what they say about how there are really only seven basic story plots; it’s not the premise so much as how the characters respond as the story unfolds. And Guterson has written Julia with such poignancy, you can’t help rooting for her even when you want to smack her and point out that she’s being an idiot.
By the end of the book, I wanted to go shoe shopping with her. So what if she’s fictitious?
How does all of that sneaky truth get in there? The scene structure in the book is rapid-fire, switching from place to place and situation to situation. No sooner have you finished absorbing one absurdity than you’re on to a new section where the tone is, perhaps, completely different. Rather than feeling disjointed, the overall effect is one of being right there inside Julia’s head as she navigates her world being turned upside down. And the giggles come and the zingers zing and through it all, handy little relationship tests and wry asides dot the landscape to remind us that this is, after all, a testimony of a complex relationship in a world where the sexes are still mostly a mystery to each other:
Do all men use their penises as flag stands? Do they all find hanging towels or dishcloths or underwear or socks or ties over their erect penises to be hilarious? Because in my experience, this is what men do. If there is one man out there in the universe who has never done such a thing—be honest—I’d like to know about it.
We Are All Fine Here is a quick read, but don’t be fooled by the flippant tone or breakneck pace. This isn’t a fluff book. What starts out funny and easy quickly turns compelling and multi-layered. And sad. And still funny. But heartbreaking.
Right. Like that.