“Vera said: ‘Why do you feel you have to turn everything into a story?’
So I told her why.
Because if I tell the story, I control the version.
Because if I tell the story, I can make you laugh, and I would rather have you laugh at me than feel sorry for me.
Because if I tell the story, it doesn’t hurt as much.
Because if I tell the story, I can get on with it.”
Presumably based upon her own life experiences, Nora Ephron’s Heartburn is a novel about marriage and divorce. In it, her main character Rachel discovers her husband’s infidelity while she is seven months pregnant. The results are humorous and heartbreaking, as she struggles to understand “why”, and well as “what now?”
I’ve read two of Nora Ephron’s memoirs, and she has a very personable way of writing. She sounds like she’s just telling you a story while you sip coffee and snack (likely on something delightful that she whipped up). The novel has the same quality. In fact, since it’s written in the first person, I had to constantly remind myself that it was fiction, not autobiographical. Although I’m sure it was, to a degree.
Most of the characters in Heartburn are in therapy, on their second marriage and sleeping with someone on the side. What keeps it from being either a) obnoxious or b) depressing is Rachel. She attacks everything with humor, both internal (“I always read the last page of a book first so that if I die before I finish I’ll know how it turned out.”) and external (see quote at the top). She turns everything into a story, everything into a joke, even as it falls apart around her. And that’s the kind of humor I understand.
Also setting this book apart: Rachel’s recipes. About once every twenty pages or so, she includes a recipe for some relevant meal. My favorite was her inclusion of various things to do with potatoes during different stages of a relationship. Mashed potatoes are for heartbreak.