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Why Did I Ever

3.98  ·  Rating details ·  1,018 ratings  ·  144 reviews
After a ten-year silence, Mary Robison has emerged with a novel so beguiling and funny that it has brought critics and her live-reading audiences to their feet. Why Did I Ever takes us along on the darkest of private journeys. The story, told by a woman named Money Breton, is submitted like a furious and persuasive diary-a tale as fierce and taut as its fictional teller.
Paperback, 208 pages
Published September 19th 2002 by Counterpoint (first published 2001)
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Joseph Terrible book. Not worth it at all. Her terse writing style is interesting and some funny passages but overall just a terrible story.

Community Reviews

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3.98  · 
Rating details
 ·  1,018 ratings  ·  144 reviews

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Jeanette  "Astute Crabbist"
This is not like reading Alfred Lord Tennyson, but neither is it like inhaling from a bag of glue.
Rachel Glaser
Oct 30, 2013 rated it it was amazing
This reading experience was like no other. Robison's main character invites/swallows(?) the reader far into her everyday life. One moment she is reading her to-do list, another she is speeding down the highway blasting music, out-racing the cops. One time she threw her sunglasses out her car window, then proceeded to run over them 37 times. The details of our world--fabrics, rugs, paint, pets, phones, litter, drugs, gifts, laundry, cigarettes, radios, chairs, clothes, drawers, newspapers--are in ...more
Rebecca McNutt
Dec 18, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction, humor, comedy
I had heard a lot of great things about this novel, and now I understand why. From the author of the dysfunctional family novel Oh!, Why Did I Ever is comedic, quirky, creative and deeply original.
May 21, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Bobbie Ann Mason, Frederick Barthelme, Ann Beattie, Joy Williams
I like this book. It has many little sections. This book is funny and calm.
Nov 20, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Holy hell that was fucking fantastic.
Justin Evans
Aug 25, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction
Before I get going, it's worth pointing out that I read this almost entirely because a friend of mine, who is a writer, was very influenced by this book. Left to my own devices, I likely wouldn't have picked it up. So be aware that I'm not Robison's audience.

That said, I'm concerned that there are very serious things wrong with me, and that this book brought them all out.

I don't care very much about 'consistent characters' or verisimilitude or realism or whatever. That said, this book seems to
Jul 14, 2012 rated it really liked it
Launched on a minimalist female authors kick (thanks Amy Hempel!) I set out looking for Mary Robison. This is her most recent novel (2001), as I haven't found anything earlier yet. It forms a loose narrative out of hundreds of tiny segments (word is, she wrote it on notecards!). It's funny, sharp, sweet, honest - an often less than flattering, but always bold and affectionate portrait of a woman, somewhere past her thirties, dating an "idiot" who falls into the category of men who are "over thir ...more
Nov 24, 2010 rated it it was amazing
I loved this book. Robison has taken the little moments and distractions--no matter how mundane--that make up our existence, and crafted them into something meaningful and quite beautiful. The book was born in her effort to defeat a kind of 'writer's block', and for me it proves something I believe to be true about writing: you can only find the work by doing it.

Robison's sentences are like hard little gems, and her sense of humor and the telling detail are very fine. As a writer, this is a boo
Oct 27, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: short-reads
I almost stopped reading this because it felt like it wasn’t going anywhere. I kept reading because it made me laugh out loud. I’m glad I persisted because I wound up loving it and wanting to go back and highlight all the clever lines
May 11, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: x2, x3
An ex once said I was probably the only Mary Robison queen on earth and it's a title I wear proudly. Easily my favorite writer, I revisit her work often and my (already fanatic) love deepens with each reading. Why Did I Ever was always one of my least favorites, something that seems extremely foreign to me now, having giggled like a numskull princess on the train over the last few days. Her humor and precision are effortless and ineffable, qualities all too mishandle or altogether missing in con ...more
Judith Podell
Aug 26, 2015 rated it it was amazing
One of those rare books that I like more and more each time I read it--first time around I thought it was merely clever and chic. By now I have favorite passages underlined that I read aloud to myself just for the fun of it. And yes, there's even a cat in it.
Dec 02, 2017 rated it really liked it
I really want to own this book and highlight the shit out of it, because it is, for the most part, just so relatable that it (almost) hurts.

And if anyone actually cares, this is probably the most telling quote of the book, the knot keeping it all together, as far as i know and care.

"There's a lot you can do with paper and scissors, if you have scissors.
I don't, and i don't really look nice enough to step outside and walk across the gravel courtyard to the office of this motor inn to borrow a
Will McGrath
Oct 10, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This is a beautiful weirdo right here.
Olivia Mason
Oct 18, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I have no idea what I just read, but I couldn't stop laughing. Deserves a re-read. 4.7 stars.
Seymour Glass
Mar 18, 2013 rated it liked it
I was recommend this by someone whose taste (and writing) I greatly respect and admire so I was all prepared to absolutely love it and start pressing my copy enthusiastically into the hands of my friends. Unfortunately, it took me a long while (about a third of the way in) to feel like I had any clue what the plot was, what the purpose of the at times sentence-long chapters was and why I should care about this woman. An emotional reveal gave the story more pathos and convinced me to keep reading ...more
Christina Sallis
ha, loved this. so funny

give me a hit of that so i can keep coughing

'are you all alone?' i ask myself.
'all alone,' i say

I would say to my cat, 'there's no place very safe for any of us anymore.'
Ben Bush
Sep 22, 2014 added it
Shelves: read-in-2016
A friend is interested in vignette novels. I read this on his rec.
Oct 01, 2009 rated it it was ok
"Why Did i Ever" read this book!!!! I got nothing out of it! I gave it 2 stars for originality.
Dan Abromowitz
Jun 20, 2018 rated it it was amazing
"He said it because it was a thing he knew"
Libby Greene
Oct 16, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Necessary document. Over the summer I tried to go straight from Infinite Jest to The Recognitions (WHOO!) and floundered in it for a while, got disappointed with myself and then disappointed for other reasons, and picked this up on a whim yesterday. The copy I read is my roommate's. What god-damn luck.

Robison's narrator has one of the best voices I've ever read-- she's just an absolutely real, breathing, sharp, bristly, aching person. She's also the funniest narrator I've encountered since, per
Kane S.
Apr 26, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Huh. This novel, told in 536 short anecdotes and non-sequiturs, is singular. Fragmented and disjointed without being incomprehensible, Why Did I Ever documents the everyday struggles of its protagonist, Money Breton. She listens to music. She doctors scripts. She argues with her friend and her neighbour. She does some speed. She shouts at cars on the highway. She searches for her cat. But this portrait of a woman constantly on the edge of something also manages to be quite funny. Rendered in pla ...more
Jul 22, 2018 rated it it was ok
The writing style is interesting; Robison strings together a few hundred short vignettes, some a paragraph or two, some only a couple of sentences, and organizes them into chapters. I speculate that she got the idea for the story’s basic outline, then began writing the vignettes, and finally organized them as she thought best. It’s worth reading, but I can’t agree at this time with the gushing praise I’ve seen from other reviewers. It held my attention enough to finish the book, but I didn’t rea ...more
Jul 09, 2018 rated it really liked it
If you like for your books or movies to give you all the details and to tie things up nicely, this is not the book for you. If you find yourself laughing with the rest of the audience, this book is not for you. But, if you are the one laughing at the hysterically funny bits when most others are silent. You might enjoy this book with a sort of plot.
This was not my favorite book, but I did enjoy the offbeat humor and some of the "entries" were priceless.
Bud Smith
Mar 26, 2018 rated it it was amazing
"On a piece of poster board I've inked in a huge crude calendar. Now, first thing out of bed I'm marking an X through today."

This was like Renata Adler's Speedboat if it had guts and more blood than is supposed to fit in a body. Not stuck up. Not even 1% stuck up. Some reviews complained they couldn't figure out what was going on in this book. Yeah. That's life. Mary Robison knows what life is. Mary Robison is great.

Gloriously absurd, I said into the Goodreads machine
Apr 14, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: short-stories
The voice holds this book together. A self destructive character with a razor sharp tongue is good, if often chaotic company. 'Strap in and hang on' might be the best approach to reading this, rather than looking for anything too linear.
Apr 01, 2018 rated it liked it
At first I was tempted to quit this book. There is no straight narrative line - or plot for that matter...
Ultimately, I decided to surrender to it and continue.
I’m not sorry that I stuck with it, but just as it was sort of starting to coalesce, it ended.
Jasmine Bejar
Sep 03, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I read this book as a part of my Advanced Creative Writing class in college, and I reread it a couple of times a year in 1-2 sittings when I need inspiration. I get totally engulfed in this story over and over again.
Jean McConnell
Feb 11, 2019 rated it really liked it
The reader may not always be able to tell exactly what is going on in this book, but rest assured that it is funny as hell. I wanted to go back and start rereading passages immediately after finishing it.
Jul 31, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Really weird, but in a good way. Kind of like me, I guess? :-)
Oct 04, 2017 rated it it was amazing
beautiful, beautiful, beautiful. very little else out there quite like it.
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Mary Robison is an American short story writer and novelist. She has published four collections of stories, and four novels, including her 2001 novel Why Did I Ever, winner of the 2001 Los Angeles Times Book Prize for fiction. Her most recent novel, released in 2009, is One D.O.A., One on the Way. She has been categorized as a founding "minimalist" writer along with authors such as Amy Hempel, Fre ...more
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“Something else that makes me angry is that I got too old to prostitute myself. I wasn't going to anyway but it was there, it was my Z plan.” 8 likes
“You Can Fly But Your Body Can't

My first seat was in first class between Penny and Belinda. Before I poured Rémy Martin down my throat and had to come see what the folks back here think of things.


'Cool out, you know, I didn't mean it, I don't really hate you,' I hear someone say.
While, over the intercom, the pilot jabbers. He's explaining that some dysfunction, once we're on the ground, can be easily fixed with a pin. I don't know, at that point, how much any of us will care. Maybe I'm drunk, but seems like they could give the plane to the Arabs once we've all made our connecting flights.


The beer nuts just served to me in a cello packet are the most delicious food I've ever tasted in my life.
Back at Dallas-Fort Worth I put an Otis Redding CD into my player and I doubt I'll ever have a reason to take it out.
Through the window, trigonometry, under a silky pink sky.”
More quotes…