Citizen Reviews: Jennifer Johnson is Sick of Being Single

We continue our occasional series of customer reviews with Amanda Aranowski’s reaction to Heather McElhatton’s second novel. McElhatton will be at Magers & Quinn to read from her book on Tuesday, May 26, at 7:30pm.

Jennifer Johnson is Sick of Being Single
The year 2009 has seen a return to tradition and to simpler times (think: award-winning Mad Men). It seems fitting then that Heather McElhatton’s new novel, Jennifer Johnson is Sick of Being Single, is at once a return to traditionalism, offering a feminine perspective on and a tribute to one modern woman’s journey to find a partner.

Like Bridget Jones, Jennifer Johnson is a single, chubby, thirty-something young professional just trying to figure it all out. Whereas Jones’ quirky, light-hearted self-deprecation invoked laughter, at times I pitied the brutally self-loathing and lonely Johnson who misguidedly quits her job, forgoing her dream of writing, in order to get married (to a man she doesn’t get along with, who limits her calorie intake, and who slowly rubs out any and all signs of her personality.) Her language is at times funny and vividly descriptive. And then there is the fact that she attacks a cinnabon in a locked bathroom stall–a friendly reminder that sometimes it is OK to self-medicate with pastries.

I wanted to like this book and McElhatton—a Minneapolis-dwelling, pug-owning [hers is Walter, mine is Parker], independent woman like myself. Trying to balance a proto-feminist character with a return to traditionalist ideals is a challenging task for any writer and, while the author occasionally struggles with blending these two things, the novel shows promise, offering a glimpse into single life and the desperation that can occur when we get wrapped up in longing for the past.

In the end, this sums it up: Jennifer, like many women, longs for simpler times and a man like her father. “Where are men like my Dad now? All you had to do was make them a Manhattan and serve a hot casserole every night, maybe have a kid every two and half years and that was that. Your bills were paid.”

Amanda Aranowski lives in Minneapolis with her girlfriend and two pugs, working full time as an editor and writer.