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All Grown Up by Jami Attenberg
Literary fiction

All Grown Up

Repeat author
Jami Attenberg is back at Book of the Month – other BOTMs include Saint Mazie.

by Jami Attenberg

Quick take

First I fall in love with the voice, dry and direct but not rude. I understand that the protagonist is not a heroine, but she is not not a heroine either.

Why I love it

Laia Garcia

'œI’m the captain of the sinking ship that is my flesh.'

Andrea Bern is at her therapist’s office contemplating the answer to the question who are you? I’m only on page eleven of All Grown Up, but I can already tell that this is the perfect book to read on the first day of my 'œgrown-woman takes first-ever alone vacation to an exotic location in order to shed past and re-emerge more powerful than ever.' I will sit in a banquet in the hotel restaurant and will read the book in one sitting, while drinking lots of coffee and eating Spanish pastries.

First I fall in love with the voice, dry and direct but not rude. Like me and my friends. I understand that the protagonist Andrea Bern is not a heroine, but she is not not a heroine either. She is the captain of the sinking ship that is her flesh.

Andrea is a woman unlike many others I’ve come across in my readings. She’s not perfect, but her imperfections are not steeped in the tragic. She is real. Here are some things to know about her: She’s on the verge of turning 40, she’s not married and doesn’t really want to be, she doesn’t have kids and doesn’t really want to have them, but it’s not like she’s incapable of loving and understanding love. She drinks and she does drugs and she sleeps with men that she likes to varying degrees. She loves and hates her mother, and she loves and hates her father, and she loves her brother, his wife, and their baby who is born terminally ill. We meet all her friends and romantic conquests, and learn how they came into Andrea’s life in short chapters that could stand alone as short stories. So you can read the book slowly, like for a month, on your commute, or sit with it and devour it because what’s the point of saving it for later?

Andrea lives in the moment, and she lives outside of it, sometimes at the same time, because our minds are capable of storing and living so many things at once. Like in a scene where she attends the funeral of her mother’s friend, and she’s listening to speeches while simultaneously thinking about her past history with some of the men in the very room, and she doesn’t want to get carried away by those thoughts but here they are anyway. If your mind has a mind of its own and a tendency to wander off to uncharted territories without your explicit permission to do so, if you always end up thinking of the weirdest stuff at the most inopportune times, then yeah, you’ll understand the mind of Andrea Bern too.

Having spent so many years going to where the circumstances have taken me, I’ve finally figured out how to steer the ship myself. That doesn’t mean it always goes where I want to, but at least I know where it’s going. Andrea knows this too, and reading All Grown Up was akin to having an older sister or a friend put a hand on my shoulder to let me know 'œeverything’s going to be okay.' Not okay, like a happy ending, but okay like a survival. Not unscathed, but undeterred. A book for the women who are warned, but persist.

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