From "the reliably hilarious" (Entertainment Weekly) author of Love, Nina: a brilliantly funny and heartbreaking story of growing up and finding the independence you might not actually want . . .
Teenager Lizzie Vogel has a new job as a dental assistant. This is not as glamorous as it sounds. At least it means mostly getting away from her alcoholic, nymphomaniacal, novel-writing mother. But, if Lizzie thinks being independent means sex with her boyfriend (he prefers bird-watching), strict boundaries (her boss keeps using her loo) or self-respect (surely only actual athletes get fungal foot infections?) she's still got a lot more growing up to do.
The winner of the 2019 Bollinger Everyman Wodehouse Prize for Comic Fiction, Reasons to Be Cheerful is a novel that lives up to its title, confirming Nina Stibbe's status as one of the most original and delightful writers at work today.
Stibbe's charming latest (after An Almost Perfect Christmas) chronicles how 18-year-old Lizzie Vogel navigates young adulthood while working at a dental practice in 1980s Leicester, England. With some nursing experience under her belt and a way with words, Lizzie finds a job as a dental assistant for the intolerant and often thoughtless JP Wintergreen. Lizzie helps out JP's part-time employee turned girlfriend, Tammy, who remains a friendly, if overbearing, presence. Their personal foibles such as JP's desire to join the Freemasons and Tammy's fertility issues often spill into the workplace. Through the practice, Lizzie becomes involved with childhood acquaintance Andy, now a lab tech, though their love life suffers after her mom, Elizabeth, takes him in as a boarder and takes a shine to him that Lizzie worries might be romantic. Stibbe nicely captures the tug of love and exasperation at the heart of this mother-daughter relationship, and also successfully writes quirky characters that don't come off as cutesy or forced. She's particularly adept at inhabiting a daughter's forgiving eye of her mother's past alcoholism and other dark times. Stibbe's memorable characterizations and storytelling talent hold steady as a tragedy in Lizzie's life suddenly unfurls. This novel treats readers to a rare voice that captivates with pathos and humor.