We Are Never Meeting in Real Life

Chicago humorist and Bitches Gotta Eat blogger Samantha Irby (Meaty) isn't interested in hiding her faults. In We Are Never Meeting in Real Life, her second collection of essays, she uses what might be referred to as "blinding transparency" for comic effect, but also for real pathos.

The book follows Irby's life in loose chronological order, tracking her from singledom in Chicago, where she worked at a veterinary hospital, to married not-quite-bliss in rural Michigan. But We Are Never Meeting in Real Life is less about one narrative and more how various pieces of life fit together, usually in strange and off-putting ways. A story about diarrhea comes right beside a piece about the death of Irby's father. What could be tonal whiplash between two distinct topics actually feels like a natural progression, with Irby showing how her short stint in college gave her clarity on the tough childhood she'd lived through. It's a testament to Irby's deft touch that she can pull the pathos out of irregular bowels and find humor in the horror of her father's abuse.

Aside from one jarring moment late in the collection--when she unsuccessfully tries to connect her cat's death with her stepchildren's "screen time" on their phones and computers--Irby is brilliant at pulling disparate threads together. Those looking for more than just a collection of funny essays will find it here. --Noah Cruickshank, adult engagement manager, the Field Museum, Chicago, Ill.

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