[I received a copy of Single, Carefree, Mellow from its Canadian publisher HarperCollins Canada. This does not affect my opinion of the book]
When I opened the package containing Katherine Heiny’s first book Single, Carefree, Mellow, I instantly knew that it was the perfect read for Valentine’s Day and that I would want to devour it for the occasion. (Never mind the fact that I actually had a Valentine’s date.) The novel has been blurbed by Lena Dunham, who calls it “magical,” and for some reason I knew that this was going to be the book for me. I wasn’t wrong.
In Single, Carefree, Mellow, the complexities of relationships and hook-ups are expertly explored through a series of short stories. These stories are all focused on the point-of-view of women (amazing!), and reminded me of shows like Sex & the City and Girls for its honest and blunt portrayal of the ups and downs of love (or lust, in some cases). There’s no sugar-coating to be found here, and it’s refreshing and fun to read.
What made this collection especially interesting was the fact that these women are not perfect. In some ways, they are also not very nice. Infidelity is not an uncommon theme in this collection (so beware, if you aren’t a fan of reading that kind of stuff), but I personally love reading about women who are unabashedly flawed. Did I cringe in some parts? Yes. Did I yell “nooo!” at parts? Yes. But I secretly thanked Heiny for writing characters that are so real that by the end of the book I felt like I had just had a long chat with some girlfriends.
On top of that, these short stories are funny. Sure, the women may not always be in great situations, but the stories sneak in a lot of observational and subtle humour that had me chuckling as I read. In one story, a woman secretly nicknames her next-door-neighbour Chicken Pox. Chicken Pox!
Verdict: Overall, this is a very strong collection of well-crafted stories that I enjoyed. (Warning: there is a story that is a bit darker than others near the end of the book, but hopefully the payoff satisfies you in a way that it did for me.) I loved how Heiny was able to capture how messy and fickle the human heart can be, and loved it even more for how it kept the tone and pacing interesting by playing with tenses and injecting humour into the stories.
Read if: You love female-focused books, are a fan of shows like Sex & the City and Girls, want to read a collection of stories that is realistic, funny, and fresh.