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Maeve in America: Essays by a Girl from Somewhere Else

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Goodreads Choice Award
Nominee for Best Humor (2018)
Maeve Higgins was a bestselling memoirist and comedian in her native Ireland when, at the grand old age of thirty-one, she left the only home she’d ever known in search of something more. Like many women in their early thirties, she both was and was not the adult she wanted to be. At once smart, curious, and humane, Maeve in America is the story of how Maeve found herself, literally and figuratively, in New York City.

Here are stories of not being able to afford a dress for the ball, of learning to live with yourself while you’re still figuring out how to love yourself, of the true significance of realizing what sort of shelter dog you would be. Self-aware and laugh-out-loud funny, this collection is also a fearless exploration of the awkward questions in life, such as: Is clapping too loudly at a gig a good enough reason to break up with somebody? Is it ever really possible to leave home?

Together, the essays in Maeve in America create a startlingly funny and revealing portrait of a woman who aims for the stars but hits the ceiling, and the inimitable city that has helped shape who she is, even as she finds the words to make sense of it all.

256 pages, Paperback

First published August 7, 2018

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About the author

Maeve Higgins

4 books127 followers
Maeve Anna Higgins is an Irish comedian from Cobh, County Cork, based in New York. She was a principal actor and writer of the RTÉ production Naked Camera, as well as for her own show Maeve Higgins' Fancy Vittles. Her book of essays We Have A Good Time, Don't We? was published by Hachette in 2012. She wrote for The Irish Times and produces radio documentaries.[2] She previously appeared on The Ray D'Arcy Show on Today FM.[3] Higgins appeared in her first starring film role in the 2019 Irish comedy Extra Ordinary.

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5 stars
412 (15%)
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984 (37%)
3 stars
1,005 (37%)
2 stars
215 (8%)
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31 (1%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 346 reviews
Profile Image for Sarah Baenen.
528 reviews3 followers
January 12, 2019
This book is really two books. One that lectures (gently, logically, and with compassion... but still a lecture) about the state of affairs in the world today. And one that self-deprecatingly examines the author's life. Separately, there's nothing wrong with either, but together, it just doesn't work. The personal bits paint a portrait of a smart, witty, educated, observant, independent woman, but I got turned off by the pages of op-ed style writing. I don't disagree with anything she says, but she loses her unique voice here such that I found myself skimming and skipping big chunks.

Maybe the book's cover needs to be rethought. Maybe it skewed my expectations too much. This is not a laugh out loud collection of "David Sedaris meets Tina Fey" essays. Instead It's like talking to a funny friend who *really* wants to talk to you about the state of affairs in today's society. It's closer to Sarah Vowell: telling you about the world and making it an easier pill to swallow by adding bits of humor.
Profile Image for Ammar.
448 reviews217 followers
June 14, 2018
3.5 stars

Thanks for Penguin Canada for an ARC of this book.

Interesting personal essays
From an Irish point of view
An alien in the USA
Maeve is a comedian
Those essays take about:

Her travels
Her fear of dolphins
Her Instagram addiction
Failed love
Obsession with Michael Fassbender
Dogs and pets
USA and trump
Complimenting women
Renting fancy dresses
Summer in NYC

Good shit I tell you
Profile Image for Terzah.
504 reviews24 followers
November 12, 2018
I don't relate to a lot in the collections of women's essays the publishing industry churns out these days--they are all too slang-y, too victim-y, too New Age-y, too bitter, too stupid or all of the above--but I loved this one. The author, an Irish comedian and podcaster who now lives in New York, does write about some of the same topics (body image, dating, and family among them) as other essayists, but her take on these topics is funny, original and intelligent. Of the constant battle she fights over accepting the way she looks, she says, "...I do sense a truce coming on between my body, myself and my life...I'm Sisyphus in a sun hat, determined to smile." And that's perfect, because most of us, in relation to trying to like our bodies, are Sisyphus; just when we think we've reached the top of that hill, that we no longer care that we don't look like magazine models or Olympic athletes or even like younger versions of ourselves, we catch a glimpse in some cruel mirror of our soft middles or our aging skin...and right back down the slope rolls the rock.

I also like Maeve Higgins because she's really funny, especially when she's making a particularly astute and witty observation. "Rescue animals are prized possessions in New York, and unexpected status symbols," she writes. "It seems like the older and sicker your animal is, the richer and greater you are...'Oh, that's Melody, she's actually a cat. She has Feline HIV and two types of cancer, plus she's thirty-two years old and has dementia, so you can imagine the amount of meds! Anyway--we had to have three of Melody's legs removed and her remaining one encased in titanium and centered...Her leg cost sixty thousand dollars. Isn't she beautiful?'"

She's just as good on more serious topics, including immigration, the subject of her podcasts. To really get an objective take on the USA, especially in these fraught and insecure times, you need to turn to an outsider. Actually, maybe this is always true of any country at any time in history: foreign residents have the clearest eye for the truth. Aren't we all still reading Alexis de Tocqueville? It's not clear to me that Higgins plans to be a true immigrant--I don't think she is seeking US citizenship--but her perspective as an Irishwoman in New York and someone who interviews immigrants gives her a particularly keen view on their issues.

Writing about Annie Moore, another Irishwoman who came from Higgins' hometown and landed at Ellis Island in 1892, she concludes an essay called "Aliens of Extraordinary Ability" with this paragraph: "Annie Moore never made a fortune, or wrote a book, or invented a computer, and why should she? Why should immigrants be deemed extraordinary in order to deserve a place at the table? She did enough. She was just one woman who lived a short life, a hard one. She had eleven children, but only six made it through to adulthood. Can you imagine burying five of your children? I can't. I tuck that part away in the 'she must have been different from me, with fewer feelings' folder, the delusional one that's full of news stories from far-away places that are too terrible to bear. Annie died before she turned fifty, but she lives on in every girl from a country shot through with rebellion and hunger, and in every immigrant who gives America their humanity, as every immigrant does."

That's the real truth, the way a real truth-teller states it. Her humility on top of her talent makes her a powerful force. I look forward to reading much more of Maeve Higgins.
Profile Image for Tibbi.
103 reviews2 followers
June 10, 2018
Maeve Higgin's collection of essays initially read like Bridget Jones comes to America, as she offers humorous self-deprecating anecdotes of her own immigration to New York City from Cobh, Ireland. Rent-a-dress, money woes, small talk and swimming and loathing with dolphins, get the Higgins treatment. But as we know, life is not all fun and comedy sketches, and Higgins' pieces on Dreamers, leaving home, mentoring and our place in the universe are thoughtful and poignant.

I was not familiar with Maeve Higgins prior to reading this book, although she is well known in Ireland. I look forward to reading more of what she has to offer in the future. Thank you to the publisher for an advanced copy of this book.
Profile Image for Gabriela Pop.
726 reviews157 followers
April 26, 2020
Such a fun collection of essays and a fantastic audiobook! Maeve skillfully mixes emotional, powerful moments and social commentary with some good ol' comedy and personal anecdotes. While I definitely expected this to be as funny as it was, the deeper bits took me a little bit by surprise. Higgins explores themes of immigration and social injustice, different levels of privilege, womanhood and so on. Her storytelling is highly engaging and she most certainly has a gift with words. One of the most enjoyable memoirs that I have read!
Profile Image for Bridget.
103 reviews2 followers
November 22, 2018
I wanted to like this book more, but it just didn’t happen. It was like being set up and told how much I’m going to like this person: they’re funny with that Irish sense of humor you love so, and charming, etc. We just didn’t click. Some of the essays were far too long, others felt more like a therapy session, and the tone was inconsistent ( odd given that it’s non fiction).

I saw the author speak and was intrigued despite it being a mediocre appearance. I chalked it up to a terrible interviewer. When she nails it such as in, “Alien of Extraordinary Ability” comparing her immigrant experience to that of an earlier Irish immigrant... well done. And a story all about Rent the Runway is unexpectedly poignant, dealing with feeling/being enough. Others though could’ve used an editing eye.

I’m not giving up entirely, but maybe we’ll be better as friends rather than the impassioned literary love affair I hoped for.
Profile Image for Maddison.
82 reviews35 followers
August 9, 2018
I was fortunate enough to win this book through a Goodreads Giveaway. My thanks to the sponsor and to Goodreads for facilitating this giveaway.

The series of essays in "Maeve in America" - penned by Irish comedian Maeve Higgins - was a bit difficult for me to synthesize into one main idea/takeaway. While some of the stories I definitely enjoyed and found humorous, others seemed to build to a crescendo that never materialized. I often found myself asking questions like, "so what?" and "why is this essay present in a supposedly comedic collection of writings?" The design of the book cover, the nature of the back blurb, and the reputation of its author suggested that each essay would be, more than anything else, funny. However, some stories were very serious, as if they had accidentally dropped out of a political memoir and nestled themselves in between the pages of Higgins' work.

That being said, I have had no previous experience with Maeve Higgins' writing, podcast, or stand-up comedy, so I dove into this read with few expectations. After finishing the collection, I do think Higgins is funny, but I would have liked to see that humor appear more consistently throughout the essays instead of just in small bits and pieces. If that would have been the case, I doubt I'd be left wondering how to categorize this book.

While others may or may not share my thoughts, I think most everyone who reads this collection will connect with at least something Higgins shares. For me, her essay mentioning the difficulties of disliking summer hit home, and the way she further tied these slight annoyances into how women and men often ridicule their own bodies during the season was particularly memorable. I only wish that more of her essays would have followed a similar pattern.
Profile Image for Molly.
1,202 reviews52 followers
April 4, 2018
I will confess that I had never heard of Maeve Higgins prior to writing this book. I am glad that I gave it a chance, though, because Higgins is hilarious and I'm looking forward to seeking out more of her work in whatever form it might take. She's self-deprecating in a charming way, very Irish, and extremely thoughtful - the essay about her attempts to make her podcast about immigrants into something comedic is frustrating (because you want to throttle her producers) and beautiful all at once. She's not quite David Sedaris, but she's pretty great.

I received access to this title via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for Shani.
203 reviews
September 4, 2019
4.25-4.5 - insightful, funny, but not just "a bit". relatable, and also thought-provoking.
387 reviews13 followers
October 30, 2018
Yes, Maeve is from "Somewhere Else" The mysterious wilds of a real country known as "Ireland". Maybe you heard of it? Or visited? Or are from there or your relatives are from there or you've ever attended a St. Patrick's Day Parade or been to an Irish pub, etc. In short, being from Ireland is not quite as exotic as the "Somewhere Else" would imply and book largely does not fulfill the implied promise of getting a novel understanding of America by seeing it through the eyes of a foreigner. Instead, Maeve takes her editor's advice and hits all the current popular cultural buzztopics: living in Brooklyn, knowing someone from Iraq, immigration, privilege, Prospect Park, body image, female inequality, the male gaze, artistic authenticity, using the word "fierce" and other affiliative shortcuts.

With the exception of some brief mentions of growing up with a large family in a country of large families and a few jokes, the book could be a product of an AI tuned to turn out brief essays on Brooklyn hipster topics after having been fed old Mary Tyler Moore Show episodes as background (Maeve is going to make it after all.). Admittedly unfairly, the writing doesn't bring the funny which the reader expects once we hear Maeve is a comedian. Of course, comics shouldn't necessarily be criticized for their more honest, vulnerable veritae writings but that's just not how the publishing business works. More fairly, the writing clunks at times such as using the word "body" once or twice each sentence during the obligatory living with societally imposed body shaming chapter. Maybe throw in a "physical being", "corporeal", "meatsack" just to break up the repetition a bit.

In short, buzzword bingo essays in the style of blogs which aim to do no more than affiliate with the reader and tell small stories with little literary flair are all the rage in the twenty-teens and this is an example if you like that sort of t'ing.

180 reviews12 followers
September 17, 2019
First, the good. "Stormy with Calm Eyes" was hilarious, poignant, pretty and perfect. If I made a collection of perfect essays, this would be included in it.

I also really enjoyed "Swimming Against Dolphins" (just because it was really funny) and "Summer Isn't The Same Without You" (a brave and personal piece about her struggles with body image). Most of the other essays were easy reads that did no harm and were good for a few head nods and chuckles and aptly missed humor and deeper subjects.

The bad? I only detested two essays. One was, unfortunately, the longest one in "Wildflowers". The story is interesting, but I found it perplexing and difficult. She has this great platform on a podcast based on immigration issues and apparently after Season One is told it isn't working unless she makes it funnier. The piece snarks at the producer for this, but to me it made perfect sense. I imagine they hired a comedian with the expectation of her adding some humor, even to a serious subject? She is unable to get out of her own way and overwhelmed emotionally by the post-Trump immigration BS to the point where she feels it's too stark for jokes. Well...really? I mean, would it be that hard to toss in a few Trump jokes? Those things practically write themselves.

I would have tuned in for her podcast because she is funny and probably could have done a great job had she been able to. Instead, that podcast space is probably now occupied by some wack job Q follower.

The last essay I found fell off the cliff. She took on a tough subject, Instagram Stories, and tried to make them seem akin to the Golden Record sent out in space. That alone in rough, but it failed for me.

But I like Maeve and I'm glad she is in America.
Profile Image for Davina.
849 reviews12 followers
February 13, 2019
The fact that Maeve Higgins is a stand up comic made me assume this essay collection would be a bit more "laugh out loud" but I really appreciated how unvarnished her stories were. "Wildflowers" in particular was so moving. The only thing that bugged me a bit about these essays was the fact that each one seemed to end like a term paper, with a neat paragraph that seemed to shout "get ready - this is the conclusion!"
Profile Image for Mandy.
131 reviews8 followers
September 25, 2018
I picked this up while in NYC at the Strand because it was signed and I loved the review "If Tiny Fey and David Sedaris had a daughter..."

I was belly laughing by page 2, and really enjoyed laughing at the entire thing. Maeve is thoughtful and smart, and observes her experience being Irish in America.

Everyone needs to laugh. This is a particularly good way to get it done.
Profile Image for Kassie.
284 reviews
March 30, 2019
some essays definitely stood out more than others, would recommend specific chapters to people but not the whole thing
Profile Image for Jarrah.
811 reviews44 followers
March 2, 2019
From stories of swimming with dolphins to interviewing undocumented immigrants Maeve Higgins' essays manage to be not only hilarious, but thoughtful and poignant. Listening to her voice narrate the audiobook (which I highly recommend if audiobooks are your thing), there were times when I laughed out loud, like during her essay on singledom and dating where she writes: "Stepping onto the dating field makes me feel like a discus thrower, and the discus is my self-esteem."

There were also times that drove me to sit and think about the dilemmas she raises, like during her essay on teaching comedy in Iraq where she contemplates whether humour is necessary and valuable in a war zone, or out-of-touch with the reality of the people on the ground. Her essay on interviewing immigrants raises similar questions about when it's helpful to be funny, and when it's necessary to be deadly serious about a situation.

Higgins had my attention start to finish. I identified with a lot of what she talked about and finished the book feeling highly entertained but also better informed and more aware of myself.
Profile Image for Gvido Roze.
12 reviews
September 25, 2021
Before diving into this book, I had no idea who Maeve Higgins was. 240 painful pages later, I still don’t have a much better idea of who she is. According to the description and reviews of the book, it was meant to be funny, and since Maeve apparently is a comedian, I believed that it could indeed be funny. Unfortunately, there were very few (barely) funny bits. Also, I had expected the book to be more about the struggles and quirks of her adjusting to life in America. Again, I was wrong. I’m possibly not the right target audience for this book, but I just did not enjoy this book at all. As other reviews on Goodreads have mentioned, the first chapter was mildly interesting and perhaps that’s why I kept reading. Hoping for the quality to stay at the same level, or improve, as the book went on. Instead, it just went downhill.
Profile Image for Siria.
1,797 reviews1,309 followers
December 24, 2020
These fifteen essays from Irish-born, New York-based comedian Maeve Higgins explore immigration, friendship, family, and belonging. Gently humourous rather than laugh-out-loud funny, Higgins is at her strongest when tackling the absurdities of trying to code-shift between cultures as an emigrant who still travels home (and oh, she's so right about Americans and small talk). Very readable in the "nice chat with a friend from back home" mode.
54 reviews
November 8, 2018
I would be delighted to meet Maeve Higgins someday. She has learned some lovely and encouraging lessons about herself, life, love and family that take others much longer into their lives to learn if they ever learn them at all. Her stories are interesting, accessible and delightful with a real positive energy that makes this an uplifting read.
Profile Image for Kendall.
456 reviews5 followers
February 2, 2020
This collection of essays follows Irish transplant Maeve Higgins as she navigates Rent the Runway, dating in New York, hanging out in Prospect Park, and growing up away from her family. She's witty and self deprecating, but I appreciated her best of all when she got serious - about running a comedy workshop in Iraq, about telling immigrant stories after the election.
Profile Image for Caleb.
240 reviews5 followers
March 21, 2019
I would say a 3.5 for this book. I listened to the audiobook and Maeve reads it herself. Maeve does a good job. Every time Maeve is on Wait Wait Don't Tell Me, I know I am in for a laugh. I expected the book to be funnier. It was still good and talks about immigration in a powerful way.
Profile Image for Megan Hawley Steinfeld.
262 reviews6 followers
February 26, 2020
I would desperately like to read a book that is nothing but Maeve Higgins using extended metaphors to describe, well, anything. She’s a metaphor wizard/genius(/evil genius depending on your feelings about metaphors, I guess).
10 reviews1 follower
April 23, 2022
I know of Maeve Higgins from Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me where her contributions are quirky and hilarious. In her essays she covers more serious topics like immigration with empathy, curiosity and thoughtfulness.
Profile Image for Kate.
113 reviews9 followers
Shelved as 'could-not-finish'
September 20, 2018
I just couldn't get into these stories. I found a few interesting but some of the others just fell flat for me.
Profile Image for Nancy Martira.
566 reviews31 followers
January 12, 2019
Maeve's essays are no less substantive for their humor and charm. Some of the essays - about finding yourself in New York City, accepting your body, aloneness vs. loneliness and the fierceness of Aunties - are achingly relatable.
Profile Image for Caitlin Peters.
14 reviews
February 20, 2019
Equal parts hilarious and devastating, Maeve gives her thoughtful perspective on immigration, politics and culture both in America and abroad. Maeve always leaves you wanting more!
Profile Image for Patricia.
628 reviews20 followers
June 24, 2019
I really appreciated these essays. Although I'm sure the author is a talented comedian, what I found in this book are thoughtful pieces about introspection, our bodies, social media, romance, immigration, and more. I will look forward to reading her future articles and books.
Profile Image for Shelley.
230 reviews14 followers
January 2, 2020
The author is a good writer and comes off as quite likable, but the tales told here make dishwater seem exciting.
Profile Image for Rebekah.
701 reviews5 followers
Shelved as 'abandoned'
January 7, 2019
I am too old and too midwestern for this.
Displaying 1 - 30 of 346 reviews

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