Rom-Com Expectations: A Review of Heartburn

“I married him against all evidence. I married him believing that marriage doesn’t work, that love dies, that passion fades, and in so doing I became the kind of romantic only a cynic is truly capable of being.”

Nora Ephron, Heartburn

’90s rom-coms are the ultimate comfort movies, perfect for snuggling up in the fall with a cup of hot tea. These films are sometimes overshadowed in between the roar of the ’80s and early 2000s movies. I like the nostalgia of the ’90s. There is an authentic quality that draws me to these films. Of course, Meg Ryan is a darling of this genre; She, along with a handful of other actors, brings the romance and drama to life. Still, I can’t help but wonder who the real voice is behind these captivating stories. With writing credits on films such as When Harry Met Sally, Sleepless in Seattle, and You’ve Got Mail, Nora Ephron is undoubtedly the voice of a generation. I was thrilled to learn that she is also a published author. Heartburn is my first foray into Nora Ephron’s writing, but now I can’t wait to read more.

Heartburn follows Rachel Samstat, a 7-months pregnant woman who writes cookbooks for a living. At the start of the novel, we learn that her husband is having an affair with another woman. On learning the news, Rachel reflects, “The first day I did not think it was funny. I didn’t think it was funny the third day either, but I managed to make a little joke about it”. Mark is Rachel’s second husband, her second chance at finding true love, and the father of her children. She is shocked and heartbroken to learn of the affair. Told from Rachel’s perspective, we get a deep introspection into the thoughts and emotions (and recipes) of a woman as she comes to terms with the dire state of her marriage.

Initially, I went into reading Heartburn with cinematic expectations. I was looking for a page-turning drama or a swoon-worthy heartthrob. Realistically, the intent of this book is different than that of most rom-coms. Ephron’s focus is not on the plot or the secondary characters. As a result, I didn’t feel a big attachment to any characters other than Rachel. I didn’t continue reading because of the riveting plot. Instead, the focus of the book is on the protagonist and her internal monologue. In order to enjoy the book for what it is, I had to set my expectations aside.

That being said, I could read Ephron’s writing no matter the subject matter. As I read, I felt like I was sitting across from a gabby neighbor learning the latest gossip about my small suburban town. She tells every anecdote with wit and charm. Her humor is not silly. Instead, it is dry and colloquial. Rachel is the star of this book, and I felt so connected to her experience with heartbreak. Heartburn succeeds because the author understands how to find humor and levity in an understated way. Ephron’s unique tonal quality is what makes her writing so compelling. While I love my rom-coms, Heartburn has a softer message about experiencing heartbreak and learning to accept it on your own terms.

You will love Heartburn if you liked similar stories like Something Borrowed or Eat, Pray, Love. If you liked the TV show, Fleabag, you would also like this book. All these stories explore themes of love and heartbreak and focus on a strong first-person female perspective. At its core, Heartburn is about facing the harsh reality when someone you love doesn’t love you back. One last thing I really appreciate about this book is that I was able to read it so quickly. It’s less than 200 pages, and I finished it in a couple sittings. Therefore, this book is the perfect option if you are way behind on your 2021 reading goals. Ahem, like me…

I encourage you to consider buying from a local bookstore to purchase your copy of Heartburn. Follow the link below to buy Heartburn from Tattered Cover Bookstore in Denver, Colorado:

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