Book 24: Paige Nick: A Million Miles from Normal

Books I've read
fiction, women, south africa, south african, Paige Nick, New York

A Million Miles from Normal

Sometimes life fucks you. That’s probably the understatement of the century, and I suppose it’s a bit crass, but it’s the truth. Plain and simple. So when it does your immediate options are generally:

1) Remain in a heap on the floor and cry, indefinitely, whilst attached to an IV drip of nutella and wine; and

2) Run away.

A Million Miles from Normal is about the second option, although it does involve a fair amount of wine too. It’s only natural. It follows the story of Rachel Marcus, who was a high-flying ad exec who reaches a situation where you has to pursue option 2 (above). In style she pursues it all the way to New York, land of overpriced apartments and a lack of Five Roses Tea. There she seeks out a new life to replace the old one she left behind.

Reading it felt like reading some of my favourite authors for this type of story – Marion Keyes, Fiona Walker etc. Rachel is a little like Bridget Jones, but with a South African disposition and humour, and better balance. She’s a person who has clearly experienced something extremely difficult, and is not fully on the mend emotionally at the time we meet her, but she is trying damn hard and she is doing it with wine and good shoes. Her choices in men are a bit suspect, as are all the men in the story with the exception of Brian, her neighbour’s husband. I liked how strong the bond between Rachel and Sue was, and how ultimately they rescue one another rather than being rescued by any of the male characters.

The contrast between the real life of working a shit job and living in a shit apartment and the glamour of the ad world that you normally see or imagine was great. I also had never thought much about the poor people who have to write adverts about socks before, but when next I see one I will clap for their effort.

A Million Miles from Normal is light, funny and entertaining. Nick is a South African writer, who has released two fiction novels, written a million columns also available in book form, and who will have a new book out in 2016. She’s also part of the famous trio that are responsible for the Girl Walks In series.



Book 12: Helena S. Paige: A Girl Walks Into a Bar

Books I've read


Growing up, my sister and I often spent weekends at my paternal grandmother’s house. Granny Moira, loved to read and do crosswords. She had an amazing flat in Umhlanga Rocks with a massive balcony and swimming pool. Whilst we didn’t always see eye to eye, I have so many happy memories of lying on the bed in her spare room reading books.

Normally those weekends would include vast amounts of cold pork sausages or roast chicken, chocolates, playing card games, and a trip to the Umhlanga library. Sometimes they also involved painting ceramics, or chipping the old plaster off of the back of old tiles (I’m not sure why because I don’t remember her ever re-tiling).

Some of my favourite books to take out where the choose your own adventure stories. I would make sure to mark each option that I had chosen, and read them over and over again until I had exhausted all the options. I was always left with that lingering feeling though that I had missed one, and so because they were quick, often did a double-check.

With A Girl Walks Into a Bar, I had the exact same feeling of thrill and excitement. Would I be able to choose all the options? Where would they lead me? For the uninitiated, A Girl Walks Into a Bar is a choose your own adventure erotica. You begin the journey by choosing the underwear you’d like to wear for your night out on the town, and the rest is history (the type of history you should probably not read on the train because it is that saucy and because you will blush the whole way home).

I have never read erotica before, mostly because I didn’t like the idea of a woman being rescued by a man, which I’ve been led to believe is the plot of most of them. (Side note – if I’m wrong, tell me now, and recommend some more books!) This book, however, was nothing like that. This was a woman, enjoying herself, experiencing sexual pleasure, and going home afterwards with a grin on her face. As will you. A big grin.

Part of the pleasure of this book, aside from the obvious, was in the choosing. The whole focus was on choosing an experience that you thought would be pleasurable, a narrative which is sadly often missing from discussions about women’s sexuality. I loved that. This book has been published the world over in a host of different languages, pointing to the fact that a) many women love sex and want to read about it, and b) we love stories that affirm our right to make choices.

The other cool thing about this book is that it is written by three female writers, together. As a writer, that thought excites me. (Note to self: plan famous novel collection with friends). The ‘Helen’ in Helena is Helen Moffett, whose book of poetry I reviewed earlier in the project. The S. is Sarah Lotz, whose thrilling speculative fiction I reviewed earlier in the project. The Paige is Paige Nick, a novelist also from South Africa (watch out Paige, I’m coming for your fiction).

Finally, the coolest thing about A Girl Walks In is that it is a series! So you can also get A Girl Walks into A Blind Date, and A Girl Walks Into a Wedding. I’m super keen to read the next two.

Follow A Girl Walks In on twitter here and on Facebook here.