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All Grown Up

Review

All Grown Up

Andrea Bern will soon turn 40. Her life is a mess and has been for a long time. Her father, a musician and a drug addict, died from an overdose when she was in her early teens. Her mother was an activist who, after her father’s death, made a living by throwing parties, until Andrea almost got hurt during one. Andrea wanted to become a painter, but left school and never fulfilled her dreams.

At 39, Andrea is exactly where she was 10 years ago. She works at a job she hates, dates the wrong men, takes recreational drugs, and drinks a lot. She has a brother and sister-in-law, both of whom had a bright future, but they became parents to a terminally ill child and are dealing with it the best they can. Andrea also has a rocky relationship with her mother. All in all, she is not in a good place. Will she ever find a better path? Will she decide to do something with her life?

"ALL GROWN UP is a beautiful, lyrical, melancholic story with a conclusion that brings a tiny bit of hope that things might turn out better for Andrea."

Andrea is a very complex character, and I wonder why she continues doing all those things to herself. Why would she get involved with the wrong men, do drugs, and work at a job she hates? She seems so lost sometimes, and I empathize with her, because every now and then we have been in situations similar to hers. Some of us overcome those hurdles, while others don’t. Andrea does not deserve pity; there are so many people like her, those with broken dreams who, due to various circumstances, have gotten lost. Her life may seem hopeless, but it is more realistic than we are willing to admit. What happens to her is, plain and simple, a life full of ups and downs.

This is not your standard narrative. The story is told from Andrea’s point of view, and the plot is nonlinear. Each chapter is yet another insight into Andrea’s life or an episode from a different part of her life (teens, 20s, 30s). Author Jami Attenberg raises issues such as drug abuse, sexual violence and abuse against women, being a parent of a terminally ill child, infidelity, marriage, mother/daughter relationships, etc. Two plot lines are dominant here: Andrea’s relationship with her friend, Indigo, and her relationship with family, including her mother, brother, sister-in law and niece. These storylines, especially the one concerning family ties, make the novel heartbreakingly beautiful, demonstrating that family is sometimes the only safe place we have.

ALL GROWN UP is a beautiful, lyrical, melancholic story with a conclusion that brings a tiny bit of hope that things might turn out better for Andrea. It also provides readers with an opportunity to imagine their own ending.

Reviewed by Dunja Bonacci Skenderovic on March 17, 2017

All Grown Up
by Jami Attenberg

  • Publication Date: March 7, 2017
  • Genres: Fiction
  • Hardcover: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
  • ISBN-10: 0544824245
  • ISBN-13: 9780544824249