Mindy Kaling’s New Essay Collection Feels Like a Much-Needed Visit With an Old Friend

Before I lost 99 percent of my book collection in a cross-country move, my copies of Mindy Kaling’s memoirs were some of my most well-loved. The pages of Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? and Why Not Me? were dog-eared and underlined with notes in the margins — quick reminders to text funny lines to my closest friends. I miss those paperbacks dearly, but luckily, Kaling is releasing a set of essays and accompanying audio readings to fill the void.

With her latest literary venture, Nothing Like I Imagined (Except For Sometimes), I once again expected Kaling to become my surrogate BFF in a time when friendship feels more essential than ever. Groups are separated — by thousands of miles or at least six feet — as the world continues to navigate pandemic restrictions. Regular visits are relegated to Zoom calls and lengthy texts, instead of spontaneously stopping by someone’s apartment.

That’s why I felt nostalgic reading Kaling’s Amazon-exclusive essay collection, even though it was all new to me. She relays stories of single motherhood, social anxiety, and getting Kanye’d at a birthday party, like a familiar pal just catching up on your couch. She makes no attempts to soften the glow of her successful career as a writer, actress, and producer (why should she?), and yet her casual and comfortable writing style make her feel as relatable as my core college crew.

As it turns out, Kaling is all too aware of her ability to become anybody’s bestie. “For a socially anxious person, it is both flattering and disconcerting to be asked into the holy sacrament of best friendship by a total stranger,” she writes. “When I’m approached at an airport by a smiling thirtysome thing woman who says she wishes I was her best friend, I hug her, take a selfie, and think to myself, Oh, sweetie, you have no idea. I don’t leave my house.

She’s right. I don’t have any idea what life fully looks like through Kaling’s eyes, but for a few pages, I get a glimpse of what’s important to her these days. She details the decisions she makes as a new mom, introducing her now 2-year-old daughter, Katherine, to Hinduism. She weighs the pros and cons of marriage, and comes out on the side of being her own husband (hell yes). She recalls the loss of her mother and the beautiful relief that came in the form of a dedicated baby nurse named Rose.

At times, it’s starkly obvious how different the 2020 world has become compared to when Kaling drafted these essays. I felt uneasy as I read about crowded New Year’s Eve parties and genuinely wondered at the idea of when my pregnant friends could ever have their own Rose again. A bonus essay detailed a day in Kaling’s life — I expect it looks much different with a shelter-in-place lens. But like reading old journal entries, these stories are more of a reminder of what life looked like not so long ago, and what it has the potential to return to someday.

Kaling may not believe herself to be the BFF everyone imagines, and quite frankly, she doesn’t need to. For all her relatability on the page, what Kaling really provides is necessary levity during an otherwise heavy time. She’s not afraid to be funny or flawed, two things we could use more of right now. She ensures there are plenty of funny paragraphs to highlight, pages to (virtually) dog-ear, and margins to fill. Let the texts to your best friend commence.

The Sweet Spot Summary

Fans of Mindy Kaling’s two New York Times bestselling memoirs will once again enjoy her collection of essays that cover her major life events over the past few years, written with her signature humor and wit. Get a glimpse of the beautifully photographed covers for each short story ahead.

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