This novel was such a fun quick read that I’m so glad I took a chance and said yes to the publisher when they reached out to me with a copy.* It didn’t hurt that they suggested I read this piece in the New York Times first and I laughed out loud multiple times (the animation is an added bonus!).
I had very little knowledge or expectations going into Ally Hughes Has Sex Sometimes other than thinking it was a quirky title and it was a debut novel. I didn’t even know it was set in Providence, Rhode Island until I started reading and did a double-take when they started naming locations around Brown University that I’ve been to. So obviously it got bonus points for that too! We all know I’m a sucker for books set in locations I have fond memories of.
I think what really sold me on the novel was the humor with which Moulin writes. I knew in the first few pages I would enjoy the book, but I nearly did a spit-take when I read this:
“She had made peace with her life alone. Alone with Lizzie. But peace or not, she hadn’t seen a penis in many years. The lack of sex, of intimacy, the lack of a man, was, at times, excruciating.” (54)
It was just so matter of fact and felt so out-of-left-field that I wasn’t expecting it, when really I should’ve been because of what was happening, but I wasn’t and it made me laugh awkwardly which is always a good thing.
I also really appreciated that Moulin didn’t seem to take herself too seriously, or her characters. I don’t mean she didn’t write them well because I enjoyed the three primary characters. I mean with a college professor for a main character who has a Mensa eligible daughter, it could easily have gone in a much different direction, but it didn’t. The moments when Ally learned about herself and her own relationships with her mother and daughter were some of the most poignant of the novel and kept me waiting for the next.
There were a few moments where it felt Moulin (through the protagonist, Ally) waxed poetic, but I mean who hasn’t had some sort of earth shattering thought like this in their life-time,
“Ally stared at it silently. The power—the potential—in that little sack was limitless, she thought in her tipsy stupor. The tiniest drop could initiate events. Important events. World-changing events. Little miracles. One little sperm made Gandhi, she thought. Marie Curie. Another made Bach. Another made Mozart. Vincent van Gogh. Amelia Earhart. Others made Einstein and Martin Luther King. Others made Pol Pot and Sacagawea. And Lizzie.” (214)
I mean there’s an entire meme dedicated to it: Sudden Clarity Clarence (Know Your Meme, website). And honestly it was an aha moment in that we really do all come from the same place.
I know after reading Moulin’s bio that she’s written under other pseudonyms for television and journalism and I really hope she’s in the process of adapting this into a screenplay. It’s one of those books that you can just easily see as a rom-com that’s played all the time and when you see it on TV you just stop channel-surfing to watch it because it makes you happy. (Think any of the late ’89-’99 Meg Ryan movies.)
Recommendation: If you like rom-coms this is your book. If you like the idea of family drama without too much of the heavy hitting drama then this is also your book. It was such a fun fast read that I hope people pick it up for a fun summer read.
*Dutton provided a copy of the book in return for my honest opinion and I received no compensation.
Opening Line: “In the end, it was Harry’s fault.”
Closing Line: “At quarter past twelve, Jake woke her up.” (Whited out to avoid spoilers, highlight to read.)