When Julie Jensen, a New York book publicist, gets a hysterical phone call from her friend Georgia, whose husband has just walked out on her for a much younger woman, she begins to assemble a group of friends to take Georgia out and introduce her to the singles scene.
But along the way toward showing her what a fun-filled life she can now have, Julie realizes something. None of her friends is really having much fun, and in their lives are great spaces full of lost hopes and dreams.
So Julie’s next idea is to take time off to study the singles phenomenon and afterwards to write a book about it.
Sort of a journey toward finding some answers.
She starts traveling, with one or another of her friends, and visits France, Italy, Argentina, India, Bali, etc. The travels are seemingly endless and her discovery of what single (and married) life looks like in other parts of the world inspires her to try on new experiences. Just to see. Is romantic love a good basis for marriage? What is better or worse about arranged marriages? Does everyone need to be part of a couple to be happy?
Like an anthropological study, but also a way to connect to other women and learn from them, Julie’s experiences bring out her own fears and dash some of her hopes. What will happen to Julie afterwards? And what about her friends back in the states who are also going through their own trial journeys? Like Serena, who tried a spiritual journey, but left the cult disappointed. Or how about Ruby, who thinks single parenting is the answer for her? What will she discover? And finally, Georgia learns that sometimes you uncover a host of insecurities that seemingly spiral outward from the initial rejection, but in the end, you realize some valuable things about what you need.
And on the last leg of their journey, the women discover something unexpected: they have formed a connection to one another. And in a ritual they discover in Iceland, where they all converge toward the end, they realize that they can let their expectations go.
How to Be Single: A Novel is narrated in the first person by Julie, whose thoughts and feelings fill the pages, and who is not the least bit afraid to show her darkest moments. In some ways, though, the experiment smacked of massive self-absorption. A study of what privileged women might do to make sense of their world. A fictional tale that felt like a memoir, however, and like a conversation with the narrator.
While I found many parts of the book fun and enjoyed laughing at how each of the women seemed unafraid of looking vulnerable, I didn’t feel that connected to any of the characters. Their lives did not resonate for me, and the whole thing felt too reminiscent of Eat, Pray, Love. But for those who enjoy stories about New York women, or privileged women looking for love, you might like this one. For me: 3.5 stars.