Review: I’m Fine and Neither Are You by Camille Pagán
Source: Hardcopy courtesy of Thomas Allen & Son. Thank you!
Publication: April 1, 2019 by Lake Union Publishing (Amazon/Brilliance Publishing)
Honesty is the best policy…except maybe when it comes to marriage in this brilliant novel about the high price of perfection from bestselling author Camille Pagán.
Wife. Mother. Breadwinner. Penelope Ruiz-Kar is doing it all—and barely keeping it together. Meanwhile, her best friend, Jenny Sweet, appears to be sailing through life. As close as the two women are, Jenny’s passionate marriage, pristine house, and ultra-polite child stand in stark contrast to Penelope’s underemployed husband, Sanjay, their unruly brood, and the daily grind she calls a career.
Then a shocking tragedy reveals that Jenny’s life is far from perfect. Reeling, Penelope vows to stop keeping the peace and finally deal with the issues in her relationship. So she and Sanjay agree to a radical proposal: both will write a list of changes they want each other to make—then commit to complete and total honesty.
What seems like a smart idea quickly spirals out of control, revealing new rifts and even deeper secrets. As Penelope stares down the possible implosion of her marriage, she must ask herself: When it comes to love, is honesty really the best policy?
I loved my husband. I loved my kids. I mostly liked my life.
But I was so damn tired.
Bestselling author of Life and Other Near-Death Experiences and Woman Last Seen in Her Thirties, Camille Pagán returns with I’m Fine and Neither Are You. The author’s latest contemporary title is a fascinating exploration into the life of protagonist and narrator Penelope Ruiz-Kar as she and her husband Sanjay navigate the status of their own lives- and their marriage- after a sudden and unanticipated catastrophe strikes Penelope’s best friend.
“Well, what is it?” I eventually asked. “What do you think?”
“What do I think?” He opened his mouth and shut it. Then he sighed deeply. At last he said, “To be honest with you, Penny, I worry that too much honesty might be a bad idea.”
When tragedy befalls Penelope’s closest friend Jenny, Penelope is left totally bereft and heartbroken for Jenny’s young daughter Cecily. As more facts about Jenny’s tragic turn are revealed, Penny’s sadness mixes with confusion. Penny and readers soon learn that Jenny- a now-popular lifestyle blogger with a seemingly gorgeous and smooth life and wealthy husband- hid major and crucial facts about her life from Penny (and her followers). In the wake of despair and unending grief that follows, Penny decides that she and her husband need- no, MUST- directly talk about and face the problems affecting their marriage and relationship with one another. With a very reluctant Sanjay following Penelope’s wishes, the couple soon come up with short lists of things they’d like the other person to work on, fix, or do. As you might imagine, the lists contain some surprising and not-so-surprising notes. And as you also might expect, the directions that Penny and Sanjay’s lives take when the items on the list start being worked upon are complicated, all kinds of messy, and deeply revealing.
I stared at my phone. I wasn’t sure whether to scream or cry, so I pressed my hands to my face, which was already flushed.
I had done the right thing by being honest and direct.
And now I had to live with the consequences.
Simultaneously moving, gorgeously profound and wry, I’m Fine and Neither Are You is an absolutely gripping study that delves deep into exploring Penny’s friendship with Jenny; the inner working of Penny and Sanjay’s relationship; their respective histories; as well as the struggles and joys the couple face in their present-day life with their two kids. Pagán’s razor-sharp and insightful writing of Penelope’s narrative also explores meditations on the unbalanced expectations of labour and output women and mothers can and do face in their home life, in their public life, and in their place(s) of work. Readers who are intrigued by incisive contemporary domestic dramas or books that detail the lives of couples and close friends- along the lines of authors such as Jonathan Tropper, Jennifer Weiner or Liane Moriarty- might especially appreciate Camille Pagán’s fantastic and riveting I’m Fine and Neither Are You.
I received a copy of this title courtesy of Thomas Allen & Son in exchange for an honest review. All opinions and comments are my own.