24 February 2022

Acts of Desperation by Megan Nolan

I love when my first read of the year is also a book I really, really enjoyed going through. Starting the year off with a good book really helps me set the reading tone of my year - whether I am going to be angling towards a lot of fiction or non-fiction, and what kind of authors I want to read. I finished Acts of Desperation (288 pages) by Megan Nolan over a weekend.

I had never heard of this book or Nolan as an author in general. Ben bought it for me for Christmas and said his purchase was based on comparisons made to Sally Rooney's writing and some favourable reviews from a podcast host I like and Karl Ove Knausgard. He also said the content seemed up my alley (addiction and a broken relationship lol). The protagonist's addiction is substance-based, but if you watched any of the Netflix series Love you'd also qualify her as a sex and love addict. 

And then, whenever I fall in love, everything is made new, including myself. My body, my brain, the way I see the simplest things. And the best part is it doesn't even have to be the first time to work. If I fuck it up once, the next time works just as well."

The book starts with her detailing the first time she meets Ciaran and continues as an internal monologue. She is immediately obsessed with him and thinks it is love at first sight. In terms of their relationship, we see one short-lived breakup and then a final breakup. She completely melts down both times and engages in a lot of self-destructive behaviour, but I honestly found her most disturbing actions all happen when she is actually still with Ciaran. The book is definitely well titled...

I can understand the comparisons to Sally Rooney because their writing is set in Ireland, but also because both authors are especially skilled at writing millennial characters. The internet stalking never seems cheesy or overexaggerated, and the way everyone communicates feels relatable. I don't mean this as a criticism, but while Rooney (born 1991) seems almost mature beyond her years, Nolan (born 1990) seems less so. I think I am almost 100% projecting the characters' qualities onto the authors, but this might give you an idea of what to expect if you decide to pick Acts of Desperation up. Rooney's characters are more steely, whereas Nolan's lead definitely lays it all out there immediately. 

By pity, what I mean is that just by looking at him I felt an acute tenderness for his condition: his being human. In that moment the basic affection and sorrow I feel for any human person was intensified to such a degree I could not breathe."

Megan Nolan

If you've ever gone through a horrible breakup, this book will honestly make you feel better about all the things you didn't do. I would compare it to listening to a friend who is currently dealing with a bad breakup ... you are almost uncomfortable by how much you recognize their actions/feelings. Reading this book will make you breathe a sigh of relief that you aren't in that position anymore and that it's hopefully just a painful memory. 

How lucky I have been that so much of my pain is from fearing the loss of what I already have, instead of suffering the absence entirely." 

I love when people buy me a book that I love. It is so difficult to find something that will match someone else's tastes. The only times I can think of a truly successful recommendation was when Stefan bought me Russell Banks's Continental Drift. So congratulations to Ben, who has now joined that small club! I will be definitely be looking out for Nolan's next book. 

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