Separation Anxiety by Laura Zigman (Fiction)

Thank you to Harper Collins and NetGalley for providing an advance copy of this book in exchange for my honest review. The book will be published on March 3rd, 2020.

Writing: 4/5 Plot: 3/5 Characters: 2/5

I wanted to like this book — I loved Dating Big Bird and Animal Husbandry — but somehow it just didn’t work for me. What was intended to be “a hilarious, heart-breaking and thought-provoking portrait of a difficult marriage, as fierce as it is funny,” for me was just a thin veneer of attempted humor over a whole lot of neurosis, pain, and sadness. Some stories are too cringe-worthy to be funny.

The book opens with dysfunctional Judy deciding to wear her dog in a baby sling. All the time. Judy is a one-time successful children’s book author who has been suffering from writer’s block for years. She now writes for a self-help website, though she is remarkably unable to help herself. Husband Gary is a self-medicating pothead who has been unable to overcome his intense anxiety and has largely given up trying. They want to divorce but can’t afford to physically separate and so cohabit the family home. And their teenage son is … a teenager. Need I say more?

Zigman writes well and the book does end on a positive note in the very last chapter, but the positive ending isn’t supported by the events and cringe-worthy character actions of the rest of the book. The bulk of the book just tracks our educated, middle-class characters as they continue to not get their act together and irresponsibly run away from their problems (to be fair, Judy really did have to face a lot of depressing things, but I didn’t feel the novel really covered how she handled these things). I’m not a fan of dysfunction – we all have our problems and we all do things we regret — but I’d rather read about how people get a grip and turn things around — not about how they continue to screw up.

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