All Grown Up by Jami Attenberg is more about being human than anything else

A lot of human life seems to be about wondering what it’s like on the other side. And, by other side, I mean the “greener side”. So, if you’re single, you’ll wonder whats it like to be in a relationship, and vice versa. If you have no responsibilities, you may wonder what it’ll be like to have some responsibilities. Human beings have different ways of coping with their emotions. Some get depressed thinking of “what could have been”. Some convince themselves that they are happy with the way things are. Some are never happy. Some take to therapy, some can’t bear to be alone with their thoughts, some hide their feelings forever. But the human brain constantly tries to make things bearable for you. So much so, that you often wonder whether life is just a really long coping mechanism? 

And, these were precisely my thoughts once I finished reading “All Grown Up” by Jami Attenberg. Nothing resonated with me more than the fact that the novel is really just about “being human”. The book is many things, it’s about a single woman in New York, or about a child growing up with poverty-struck drug-addict parents or about coping with the struggles of bringing up a sick child. Primarily, the book follows the life of protagonist Andrea, who happens to be single in New York. A single woman in New York is no different from a single woman anywhere else. Hence, she constantly gets plagued with constant questions about when she’ll be getting married or find a partner. In that sense, the book has strong undertones of feminism. She goes on countless dates, but often asks herself what she’s really looking for at the end of the day. Adulthood is supposed to be all about knowing the answers to life’s questions, but by now, I think we all know the truth about that. 

Ultimately however, the book deals with subjects close to all of us, whether it’s about a strained relationship with a parent or a job you absolutely detest or about struggling to keep things going during depressed phases of your life. The book also explores the path that could have been. Andrea has a true passion, which she doesn’t explore anymore, but it stays with her throughout her life. It’s all of us when we’ve been scared to take a path less traveled or chosen a more stable job rather than following our dreams. And, it’s a passion that she can’t forget. Though she keeps at her mundane job, she constantly thinks about her passion. 

The book has an interesting narrative, and jumps back and forth between various periods of Andrea’s life, from her childhood to adulthood to college days to times when she’s in a relationship to times when she’s struggling to find her passion. The book touches upon various poignant topics, without ending up being depressing. Everything is very real, very human, very everyday life. Though it is an easy read, it manages to be thought-provoking at the same time. It will make you remember incidents from your own life and remind you of your daily struggles. 

I’d been looking for some slightly different reading material for a while now, and this perfectly fit the bill. I’d been struggling with long novels and had been finding it a little difficult to focus. This novel was just what I needed. An easy but thoughtful read, and something which also brings you down to earth a little bit. Makes you realize that everyone has their own struggles, and though they may not show it, everyone’s fighting their own battles. It makes you feel a little more sympathy for that friend who you think has everything together, and a little less sympathy for the friend who you think doesn’t have it all together. We all tend to stereotype, but it’s time we stop bucketing people based on our perceptions. The one without the job may have it all together whereas the one with the job may not. You may like babies, you may not like babies, there’s nothing right or wrong about either preference. 

People take various paths in life and ultimately, there’s no one path which is the best one. Everyone comes from different places and goes to different places. This book’s exactly about that – having the courage to do or be what you really are. 

 

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