Trust You’re Well (2021) – Hans Mackenzie Main

Title:Trust You’re Well
Author:Hans Mackenzie Main
Publisher:HMM Books
Date of publication:2021
Star Rating:⭐⭐⭐⭐
Disclaimer:Hans Mackenzie Main kindly sent me a copy of his book in exchange for an honest review.

Reading Hans Mackenzie Main’s Trust You’re Well – a collection of emails, think pieces, and ponderings – is both highly entertaining and truly frightening. I use both of these adjectives in the best way possible. In so many ways an author’s collection of essays can be deeply revealing, but when they are in email format it’s a little more difficult to grasp the essence of a person, and I’ll tell you why: as a fellow writer, the email in its raw format can be both stifling and also a place of complete freedom. It is a blank canvas, and despite a ton of rules, etiquette, and compulsory topics, we are able to write whatever we want. We are able to play with the perfect opening line and the most appropriate send-off. The email is perfect for the purist who has no time for emojis and gifs and would much prefer to use actual words to express feelings of disdain or enthusiasm. It’s truly a wild place to be. Why is it not the most revealing medium? It’s formal. Simple as that. The email will always be a place where, try as you might, being formal still lingers in the background, like a nosy neighbour or a disapproving relative at a reunion.

Trust You’re Well begins with a showcase of email correspondence between Hans and numerous retailers, businesses, and people in positions of authority. His witty, sarcastic and unapologetically sharp requests, suggestions, and complaints are brutally bitter and sweet at the same time. Clearly a lover of story-telling, Main is quick to launch into personal anecdotes with complete strangers, and he does so with the flair of a cloyingly upstanding citizen and a writer with a superb sense of humor. Topics of contention include faulty products such as zips, watches, laptop batteries, and a VW Golf, the absolute art of getting lost in Cape Town, and incorrectly naming your crumbed chicken fillets.

A sub-chapter entitled “Is a Butchery Too Much To Ask?” chronicles Main’s hilarious correspondence with a city planner regarding the need for a “butchery of any repute” in Cape Town, and in “The Swallowtail Lighthouse” a couple and their two cats request information regarding the possible long-term rental of a lighthouse in New Brunswick, Canada. “Running on Wheat” discusses the notions of extreme false advertising, and “Job Application” is so completely over-the-top it can’t possibly be real – no one could be that unaware. Could they?

Other than emails this slim collection also includes short pieces on sport, politics, personal opinions, worldly news, and freelance writing. Main’s opinions and think pieces are about everything and nothing – like an episode of Seinfeld. In the chapter entitled Other Writings, Main discusses an eclectic variety of thoughts that include his opinion on husbands changing their surnames after marriage, the eternal battle to delete one’s Facebook account, spelling and grammar, living in South Africa, and the importance of maintaining your mental health. These shorter pieces are very direct and are as serious as they are humorous. The thoughts and opinions expressed in Trust You’re Well are refreshing and astute, and drenched in an underlying potential for much lengthier pieces.

To harken back to my original statement that this book is entertaining and terrifying, it is the word ‘terrifying’ that I should justify. In so many ways (and words) Main has proven himself to be a writer of many talents, and he seems to have a particular talent for unmerciless responses, and some pretty insane suggestions. Personally, I would be extremely cautious when having any sort of email correspondence with this particular writer – unless of course, you are quite sure that the awful grammar and numerous spelling mistakes you are prone to producing will not appear in your replies to Hans Mackenzie Main – in case said correspondence ended up in his next book.

Trust You’re Well is a fantastic little gem of a book that will resonate with anyone who has a sense of humor (read: a sense of sarcasm), and anyone who ever lived in a developing country. It will please both vegans and meat-eaters, anyone who ever wrote into the customer complaint void, and those who enjoy a good story with a touch of contempt, and a smattering of wicked delight.

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