Not Working by Lisa Owens


You can see Lisa Owen’s editorial background in the layout of this book. The generous paragraphs mean that each one is like a vignette, and could almost be read separately or one at a time. It has a refreshing, contemporary feel.

This is a book which made me laugh out loud with its sharp wit and surprising warmth. At first you think you’re reading a novel about someone who clearly can’t have a normal relationship and who is a bit odd, but actually as it progresses you realise she could be you. She is confused and massively rubbish at lots of things, and therefore she is human.

Claire starts off with a plan, just like we all do – she’s relatively clear about what she’s hoping to achieve from quitting her job – she needs time to breathe, she needs to see clearly why her life on this earth is worth anything. But as the story progresses, we are let in on the secret that actually, before things can get better, they kind of have to get really quite a lot worse.

Initially I disliked various people in her life and of course this is because it’s Claire’s take on things. When we meet her she is slightly twisted and is frankly quite messed up and so her nearest and dearest reflect that. But as the story goes on and we get to know them better, we see them for what they are. Flawed, eccentric, odd, individual. Mostly caring people with their own shit going on. Claire is so bound up in her own little drama’s she often forgets that all around her other people are also having their own little dramas. Owens sums all this up with to the point sentences, neat observations and interesting dialogue.

The relationship between Claire and her dad is particularly poignant. Here’s a man who is slightly in awe of his unpredictable daughter but always seems to have faith in her. One particular scene at the end I re-read several times because I thought it was so beautifully observed, and made me feel nostalgic and all fuzzy inside.

In short, I loved this book – you think you’re reading a story about a woman who gives up her job to figure out what to do next, but actually you’re reading a book about how it is to be human and to mess things up, but how love and friendships can lift you up from the lowest places. A great read.

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