REVIEW: Separation Anxiety by Laura Zigman

In brief: Judy’s life is nothing like she expected. She’s broke, lives in the same house as her separated husband and her once promising career has taken a U turn. So she wears the family dog in a sling. So what?

The good: I don’t know how all this despair makes an incredibly fun read, but it does.

The not-so-good: It’s a pretty fast read because you can’t help but to keep reading.

Why I chose it: Lockdown desperation bulk book order – if it sounded good, it went in the cart.

Year: 2020

Pages: 276

Publisher: Doubleday (Penguin)

Setting: Boston and surrounds

Rating: 8.5 out of 10

A million years ago, I read Animal Husbandry by Laura Zigman when the movie (Someone Like You) was released. From memory, I didn’t like either very much but in retrospect I think it was that I knew deep down that Hugh Jackman was more than a rom-com actor. I had heard many great things about Separation Anxiety from readers I trust and to be honest, I didn’t even realise it was the same author. Maybe I just needed time and wisdom to appreciate Laura Zigman’s writing because Separation Anxiety is the book that you didn’t know you needed it in your life. It’s outlandish, almost zany in parts, but it fits in so well with the current world situation that everything seemed plausible. A middle-aged woman wearing her dog in a sling? A separated couple living in the same house pretending everything is fine (even though they are broke)? People dressed as puppets as house guests? Yep, totally normal.

Beyond this, Separation Anxiety is about not being where you thought you were going to be in your twenties. Judy was a person going places. A bestselling author with a TV series, a musician husband and a cute son. Now, she can barely smash out articles for a self-help website, her husband is a part time snackologist (meaning he chooses and refills snacks for conferences and meetings) and she’s got a surly teenager who his school thinks is defecating in public places. Add to that her dying best friend, a lack of money, living separated but together and a slight obsession with an Instagram influencer. Judy’s is nothing like she had planned. At the root of it all is a lack of money, but perhaps also a fear of loss as everyone seems to be moving away from her. (Except the dog). It’s a story of calamities, foot in mouth situations and awkward moments.

Judy puts it all out there for the reader and that’s one of the reasons that this novel is so endearing. Who hasn’t wondered what if? Or wanted to see if a retreat with the perfect influencer could change your life? Judy embodies the worries, real and imagined that plague everyone’s life. (Except for the reactions of people to wearing a dog in public. That I haven’t seen locally yet. Although as I write this I have a bird on my shoulder. Not on my head). What stops the novel from being a freak out fest is the humour. It’s wry, sarcastic and dry. Judy gets into some incredible situations and they are detailed for full comic potential. It made me giggle and lighten the atmosphere in the story.

This is the book 2020 didn’t know it needed. Give it a go.

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