I sat at my computer trying to conjure up my best Official Book Review voice. Something worthy of the New York Times or at the very least my second grade book reports. But it all sounded so unnatural and cliche. Frustrated, I walked away from my computer and took a cue from Why Not Me’s best feature: the use of one’s own voice. So here we go – my voice, with a few holdovers from the Official Book Review voice.
First, go buy this book: Why Not Me? by Mindy Kaling. If you have not read: Is Everyone Else Hanging Out Without Me (and Other Concerns), her first book, buy that one too. Take them to the pool, the beach, a plane ride, mass transit, church, take them wherever you are going and read them.
If you are not familiar with Mindy Kaling – think Kelly Kapoor from The Office. The bubbly customer service rep and on-again off-again girlfriend to Ryan who chatters about boys and celebrities. In real life, she runs the office. On the show, playing Kelly was her side job. Her real gig was as the only female writer on an all male team, who also wore the hat of executive producer at times and received an Emmy nomination for Outstanding Writing in a Comedy Series for the “Niagra” episode (where Pam and Jim get married.) These days she runs her own show, The Mindy Project, where she writes, acts, and produces. In her spare time, she writes books. Not normal books. Laugh out loud, oh-no-I-am-crying-in-public laughing so hard books.
Have you ever walked into a party, not known a sole, smiled too big and laughed too hard at everyone’s jokes – trying to fit in? But then you hear something that hits home. It resonates so profoundly, it allays the nerves. The smiles and laughter are no longer too big, just genuine and sincere. Following her preface, it is fitting that the first few pages echoed those first few moments at a party full of strangers. As quickly as the others guests became friends, the words flowed naturally.
She begins by providing a glimpse inside the Hollywood beauty routine, which confirmed what I have always suspected: the rest of us, without a team of professionals, getting by everyday drying our own hair (ok, I maybe do that once a week) and applying our own mascara, are doing just damn fine. She precisely details the post-college reality that our friendships will never be the same because life will never be the same.
Shifting to her career and adulthood, she shares insights about entitlement, hard work and steering into the curve. She then moves into the stuff that happens when we realize we now operate in the grown up world. Telling stories about not throwing a temper tantrum at the Emmy Announcements and not making a drama out of a relationship that fizzled out instead of officially ending.
Her honesty, insight and humor that drew me in with her first book are still center stage in this book as she focuses on the initial foray into the grown-up world. All said with the confidence that I imagine comes with having a bestseller and your own show under your belt. Her honest, almost stream of consciousness, yet artfully curated, voice makes it feel like a conversation with your best friend or the girl you want to be your best friend (“Best friend isn’t a person…it’s a tier.”)
Towards the end, Mindy has her mentor write a few words. He describes mentors as anyone where you can get close enough to watch them. Peering at Mindy a far, a contemporary by age, but not by success achieved, she re-affirms the importance of hard-work and belief in one’s self. As funny and quickly as the book reads, there is also something inspiring as she shares her stories of successes (and failures). Borrowing her borrowing a quote from Catcher in the Rye: a great writer is someone you want to have a conversation with when the book ends.