I Like You Just Fine When You’re Not Around by Ann Garvin is a witty, heartfelt novel that deals with life’s beautiful imperfections as well as the devastating effects of Alzheimer’s. Writing with both honesty and levity, Garvin draws back the curtain and shows readers a family that is faced with this heartbreaking disease that slowly robs them of their loved ones.
The story takes place in Madison, Wisconsin, where psychologist Tig Monahan is committed to taking care of others – the couples who attend her therapy sessions, her family, and her mother, Hallie, whose dementia has progressed to the point where she must now live in an assisted living facility. As a person who prides herself on maintaining control and managing her responsibilities as “the good daughter,” it doesn’t take long before Tig’s house of cards begins to collapse. It begins when she tells off an insufferable client, quits her job, and is then dumped by her long-term boyfriend just before they embark on a Hawaiian sabbatical because he’s “just not that excited about [her] lately.”
During a time when most people would want to crawl into a hole, Garvin decides to throw her protagonist into the spotlight instead. Tig accepts a new job as the host of a radio call-in show about relationships called “Is That Fair?,” where she dishes out quick-fire advice on the private lives of strangers in front of a studio audience. The irony, of course, is that nothing in Tig’s life feels fair, which makes her even more relatable and endearing. If all of that wasn’t enough to throw Tig completely over the edge, her older sister Wendy, who had been absent during much of their mother’s illness, returns home shortly before giving birth to a baby girl, only to disappear and abandon her family again – including leaving her newborn in Tig’s lap.
While Tig’s story drew me from Chapter One (“Horn Broken, Look for Finger”) and held my interest until the very last page, the novel was made even more enjoyable because of the rich cast of characters that Garvin created to fill Tig’s world. I also appreciated the irony that Tig, a woman who spent her days caring for others and helping them solve life’s problems, couldn’t heed to her own advice. As the saying goes, “Doctor don’t heal thyself.” I loved the way Gavin wrote with heartfelt honesty, while also reminding us of the humor that can be found in even during the most trying times. “Nothing magical about me,” Tig said. “Give me a beautiful, poetic moment and I’ll burp into it.”
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Ann Garvin is a nurse, a professor, and a professional loser of keys. Dogs think she is amazing, and the feeling is mutual. Ann writes about women who have a good sense of humor about doing too much in a world that asks too much of them. She thought writing a book would get her a beach house. The beach house hasn’t happened yet, but she’s bought sunglasses, so she’s ready. She created the Tall Poppies because she loves writers, readers, and helping women get their voices heard. Ann is the author of ON MAGGIE’S WATCH, THE DOG YEAR, and the USA Today bestseller I LIKE YOU JUST FINE WHEN YOU’RE NOT AROUND.