THE NEW ME by Halle Butler

From the Back Cover

Thirty-year-old Millie just can’t pull it together.  Misanthropic and morose, she spends her days killing time at a thankless temp job until she can return home to her empty apartment, where she oscillates wildly between self-recrimination and mild delusion, fixating on all the little ways she might change her life.  Then she watches TV until she drops off to sleep, and the cycle begins again.  When the possibility of a full-time job offer arises, it seems to bring the better life she’s envisioning–one that involves nicer clothes, fresh produce, maybe even financial independence–within reach. But with it also comes the paralyzing realization, lurking just beneath the surface, of just how hollow that vision has become.

My Thoughts

We stan a millennial workplace novel a la Moshfegh’s MY YEAR OF REST AND RELAXATION and Ma’s SEVERANCE, two of my absolute favorite books!  You could say, then, that I had high hopes for THE NEW ME, which follows Millie, a thirty year-old woman stuck in a cycle of miserable temp jobs, waiting for one to turn permanent so her life can finally begin.

“People spend so much time dramatizing trivial bullshit that when an actual tragedy happens, I wonder how anyone could possibly act out their grief in a natural way.”

With THE NEW ME, Halle Butler really captures the millennial feeling of waiting for your life to begin, of being stuck in a cycle of unhappiness and dreaming of a perfect future while failing to make that future a reality.  THE NEW ME shows how fake people can be to your face when they are actually suffering from the same internal crises as you.  I really related to Millie’s attitude throughout the novel–she constantly switches between taking great care to be likable and not caring at all, which is something I think most young people have suffered with at some point.  Millie herself isn’t a likable character, but she’s certainly relatable.

“You can’t ask someone to help you without letting them know you’re different than advertised, that you’ve been thinking and feeling strange things this whole time.  That you’re uglier, weaker, more annoying, more basic, less interesting than promised.  Without letting on that your feelings are easily hurt, and that you are boring, just like everyone else.”

THE NEW ME is a short, relatively quick read.  For me, it wasn’t very memorable and I’m not convinced I got much from it, but I was certainly entertained.

Further Reading

“What Do Halle Butler’s Women Want?” by Sylvie McNamara, The Cut
“I, a Novelist: An Interview with Halle Butler” by Patty Yumi Cottrell, The Paris Review
“Halle Butler’s ‘The New Me’ is an Office Novel for a Precarious Age” by Jia Tolentino, The New Yorker
“Halle Butler: ‘Sometimes It’s Good to Put Yourself Through the Wringer'” by Rebecca Liu, Chicago Review of Books

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