Title: Oh Honey
Author: Emily R. Austin
Genre: Literary Fiction
Number of Pages: 140
Jane is a mentally ill telemarketer with a drug problem, and as we follow her through her day-to-day life it becomes clear how self-destructive she really is. She’s not a character most readers would prefer to spend time with but while the author doesn’t try to make her likable, she is bitterly authentic.
She has no real friends and her parents haven’t done shit for her, providing her with a traumatic childhood where she was abused both mentally and sexually. It makes sense that Jane is part of one of the most despised careers in the world.
Others don’t like her and she’s receiving coercive phone calls from an unknown source, but I doubt anybody hates her as much as she hates herself. Selfish and hedonistic with brief moments of tenderness and kindness, Jane is a dark character with a lot of the same hang-ups as Gilda in the author’s following novel Everyone in This Room Will Someday Be Dead.
I found Gilda much more likable but I admired the way the author wrote both protagonists. They really nail what it’s like to have anxiety and depression. Oh Honey is somewhat stream-of-consciousness and I admit it dragged a little bit for me near the beginning, but I thought the gut-punch of an ending made it worth it.
There’s dark humor and a collection of weird characters, including Jane’s conspiracy theorist roommate and her mentally disabled co-worker with an obsession with stealing other people’s pens. The especially strange thing is not the characters themselves but how authentic they feel. The author has a gift for writing eccentric and damaged people and not making it feel like she’s just making fun of them or being zany for the sake of being zany.
She also shows how people in an urban environment can be surrounded by each other 24/7 and still feel utterly alone. By the end of the book, I can’t say I exactly liked Jane but I kind of understood her. She was one of those people in the mental health community who other people say ‘doesn’t want to be happy,’ because being alone and in pain is the only thing she understands. I know how that feels to some extent and that’s why even though she was sometimes infuriating, I couldn’t dismiss her either.