Mary Guterson‘s debut novel We Are All Fine Here offers us a fresh new voice that is one part Lorrie Moore and one part Helen Fielding.

The narrator, Julia, is funny, neurotic, and brutally honest (at least in her internal monologue). In short, she is real–take this bit for example (which could be a scene from my own life, as I once told a nurse that she had just given me my best pap smear ever):

The lab technician took blood from my arm, and I got all teary and told him that he was a prince among blood-takers, that I couldn’t even feel the needle in my arm. He thanked me, but it was a hesitant thanks. The kind of thanks that means, “Please do not attempt to have a conversation with me.” The kind of thanks that reminded me I was getting too old to say stupid things to cute male blood-takers.

Julia is as flawed as flawed can be–a married mother who thinks she’s failed at raising her son, in a dead-end job, who is pregnant with her ex-boyfriend’s baby (although the paternity could easily be in question as soon after fucking her ex in the bathroom at a wedding, her husband brought her on a dismally romantic weekend during which they had sex several times). Despite her flaws, though, she is charming and easy to spend time with–even though sometimes, maybe, her passivity gets annoying. But that’s the point. It’s supposed to so that when she changes we see it.

This book offers us glimpses into the beauty and brutality that make up our most cherished relationships–those that we hold with our family and closest friends. And while the plot may be nothing new, the voice is exquisitely fresh and in that this book is a winner. Ultimately, it does the best thing a book can do, makes us laugh, makes us cry, and allows us to witness a life in progress.

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