More often than not, we take for granted some of the most important things in life, whether it’s your dog greeting you at the door or the way a kid laughs at the simplest things or even the unconditional love of your significant other. In Courtney Maum’s debut novel I’m Having So Much Fun Here Without You, that’s exactly what happens to the narrator of the story, painter and installation artist Richard Haddon.
After years and years of marriage, he’s let the everyday stresses of life chip away at his relationship with his wife Anne and strayed right into the arms of someone else. It was only a matter of time before Haddon’s personal life began to unravel, and of course it happens just as his professional career really takes off. He lands his first solo show and sells some of his paintings, including the “Blue Bear,” a painting of a blue bear on a rocker through the perspective of a keyhole, painted when Anne was pregnant with their one and only child. Not surprisingly, it serves as a constant reminder of how good their relationship used to be.
But after realizing how much he has actually lost, Richard decides to try to win back his wife — and hopes she can forgive him. Told through memories and present day occurrences, Maum doesn’t let the emotional heft of the story drag readers down too much. The introduction of new characters, like a crazy couple of new age continusists — followers of the belief that everything in life needs to come full circle — adds some humor. For the continuists the full circle of the Blue Bear is having Richard deliver the painting from his home in Paris to their house in London, making sure the transaction is circular from the creation of the painting to the new ownership.
There are also a few moments that are funny in a painful sort of way. Like the romantic evening Richard plans for his wife. He takes Anne on a cheesy boat ride on the Seine and revisits the all-you-can-eat meat buffet that they used to frequent during their clubbing days when they first arrived in Paris. But when nothing is the same, like the fact that the buffet Richard and Anne so loved no longer exists and they have to buy the sauces (their favorite part of the buffet — it’s a reminder that everything has changed, just like their relationship.
At the core though, I’m Having So Much Fun Here Without You is about love and remembering to recognize it in your life. As Richard’s father drunkenly tells him on his wedding night, “Listen. Don’t forget her.” Richard didn’t heed that advice, but in the 331 pages of I’m Having So Much Fun Here Without You he’s going to do his damnedest to right his love amnesia.
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