I love the theatre. I love it so much that I spell it “theatre” not “theater”. In my younger, more vulnerable years, I performed a lot on stage. I was Snoopy in You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown, Dr. Einstein in Arsenic and Old Lace, Biff in Death of a Salesman, and so many others. Biff was my favorite and most challenging role. I’ve thought a lot about that role in the years after and I want to do it again because I have so much more to bring to that role.
There are three more theatrical things I was to do before I slough my mortal coil. I want to be in the musical Next to Normal (but I would have to prevent myself from crying each performance), Rosencrantz in Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, and I want to do a Shakespeare play. I don’t even want a meaty role, I just want to speak in iambic pentameter on stage.
All’s Well by Mona Awad caught my eye right away. The cover is just beautiful. And terrifying. Terrifyingly beautiful. Beautifully terrifying. I think that last one is the correct term. Anyway, using the comedy mask as your book cover is a surefire way to get a theatre nerd to pick up your book.
What awaited me inside was nothing short of confusing and brilliant.
Miranda is a former stage actress who now teaches theatre at a college after taking a nasty fall while performing. She muddles through her days in a haze of pain and painkillers all while staging the school’s latest Shakespeare production, All’s Well That Ends Well. Miranda is stuck in the past, always wishing she was back onstage playing Helen, the heroine of All’s Well. Her cast, however, hates the play and wants to do Macbeth instead.
(Sidebar: I will say Macbeth in a theatre I don’t give a damn. Theatre superstitions are fun until they get annoying. Of course, my superstition isn’t annoying at all, I just have to go to every actor before the show and shake hands with them while looking them in the eyes, saying “Doctor”. Not annoying at all.)
One night, she meets three strange men who will change her life as long as they can see a good show. Thus begins the incredibly confusing second act of All’s Well.
I don’t want to go into spoiler territory too much because there were parts of this book that made me audibly gasp. It’s weird, it’s strange, it’s funny as hell. There is a lot of magic to this book that is left unexplained (my favorite kind of magic). The last quarter of the book is just stress inducing madness and I am HERE FOR IT.
This book reminded me a lot of one of my favorite books, Some Things That Meant the World to Me by Joshua Mohr. It has that same weird magic where you can’t tell if the narrator is dreaming everything or if it is actually happening.
I highly recommend this book, however, it is not a light read. Be prepared to actually do some work with this one. Overall, I give it a 4/5, 8/10. Make sure you grab a copy from your local indie on August 3rd, 2021!
Thanks NetGalley for the eARC!
Looking for a way to help the site? Consider donating a few bucks here!