It’s publication day for Abigail Mann’s debut novel, which was runner-up in the Comedy Women in Print Prize 2019: The Lonely Fajita is a story about how finding yourself with nowhere else to go just might lead you to the very place you need to be.
It’s Elissa’s birthday, but her boyfriend hasn’t really noticed – and she’s accidentally scheduled herself a cervical smear instead of celebration drinks. Great.
Then there’s her borderline-psychotic boss, the fact she’s not making but losing money at work, and her sinking feeling she’s about to be dumped.
But Elissa will soon find out that being single doesn’t have to be lonely… And with a little help from her friends, even a girl with minus £1,000 in her account can have a lot of fun.
When we first meet Elissa, she’s not exactly living the dream in London; her accommodation arrangements are precarious, her boyfriend isn’t being very attentive, and her job doesn’t seem to be heading anywhere close to a living wage, let alone any kind of job security.
I wasn’t sure about Elissa at first but to be fair, she’s nowhere near her best and is drifting towards becoming The Lonely Fajita of the title. But I liked her voice from the outset and there were glimmers of hope in the character’s use of humour, which hinted at someone with more spirit and fight in them, and friends Maggie and Suki, who are there for her when she needs them, pushing her out of her comfort zone every time it looks as if she’s retreating into her duvet cocoon.
It’s when the crunch point comes and Elissa is forced into making a move she initially views as an admission of failure that the pace really starts to pick up, the humour comes into its own and the story changes tack from where I thought it was headed. And I love when a book and its characters surprise me in this way with a shift in direction, bringing with it a whole new energy.
One of The Lonely Fajita‘s strengths comes from the brilliant community of characters which Abigail Mann creates around her main character Elissa. They carry you through the book until Elissa starts to find her way. And here they come in the form of antagonistic housemates and a motley crew of work colleagues to real families and neighbours separated by misunderstandings, as well as emotional and geographical distance. My personal favourites were Maggie and Suki, as mentioned above, together with Annie, George and Rodney. And I did take a perverse pleasure every time cringeworthy Craig crept onto the scene.
The Lonely Fajita highlights how beneficial intergenerational socialising and living can be for everyone involved: what we can learn from each other; that we don’t know all the answers but how both young and old can help each other to find the strength and courage to work through whatever life throws at us; and how it’s never too late or a sign of failure to start over.
The humour often comes from Elissa’s wry observations of the people and situations, even those spiralling out of control, from misunderstandings between two people and by misreading a person’s motivation, meaning or character. The Lonely Fajita is a surprising novel, in a good way; I loved the voice at the heart of Abigail Mann’s debut, and how she decides to embrace the ‘loser lit’ side of things, yet transforms this until it becomes something altogether more uplifting and reassuring, witty, generous and full of heart.
The Lonely Fajita by Abigail Mann is published today by One More Chapter, a digital division of Harper Collins. It is available as an ebook with the paperback due out from Avon on 20 August and an audiobook on the way. You can find it at Amazon UK or buy it from Hive instead where each purchase helps to support your local independent bookshop.
Abigail Mann is a comedy writer living in London and surviving on a diet of three-shot coffee, bourbons, and vegetarian sausage rolls. She was born and brought up in Norfolk, which she says is to blame for the sardonic humour that runs through her novels. Abigail was the runner-up in 2019’s Comedy Women in Print (CWIP) Prize for The Lonely Fajita: her first novel. For more, check out Abigail’s Author Website, or find her on Facebook, on Instagram or on Twitter.
The Comedy Women In Print (CWIP) prize was set up by actor, writer and comedian Helen Lederer and is a new literary award now into its 2nd year. Open to published authors and unpublished writers alike, with a new category for graphic novels this year, it looks for evidence of wit ranging from irony to absurdity offering laugh out loud moments and a sense of connection, truth and recognition to the reader. The 2020 shortlist is announced on 8 June. For more on CWIP, visit the CWIP website, our Facebook Page, or find us on Instagram or on Twitter.
The Lonely Fajita blog tour runs from 11 – 15 May and all the stops are below: