The Woman Who Stole My Life by Marian Keyes

keyesFirst book of the year! I am a devoted Marian Keyes fan, so I was a bit bummed when I heard from reliable sources that this newest book was “…not her best.” I decided to give it a go anyway. And while I did enjoy it, I do have a lot of criticisms about it. It definitely was not her best and not on par with any of the novels about the Walsh sisters or other recent titles.
The premise (with many spoilers): a woman contracts a rare neurological disease that has her paralyzed and only able to blink. She is in the hospital for months. When she eventually gets out she enjoys notoriety from a book published of the wise things she said (blinked out, one letter at a time) while paralyzed.  In the present day quite a bit of time has passed since then and everything seems to have fallen to pieces, but you’re not exactly sure how or why.
My criticisms: Her family and friends were the most loathsome people ever and she put up with it and I felt it was never appropriately addressed. Being trapped in her body was really interesting and the foundation for the whole story, but it seemed to get short shrift. I found it odd that in the present people weren’t referring to it. Also, to go back to the loathsome people. Her husband and son telling her that getting sick was her fault and she shouldn’t have done it because it inconvenienced them? I mean, honestly, they were horrible pieces of garbage. Ryan (husband) and her kids were so awful they were beyond caricature.  I also thought the structure of the book didn’t work with the two timelines (usually something I love, but here it was used very well.) The ending was also a rather hasty and tidy wrap up.

Overall, I enjoyed page to page witticisms (and that a character was named Mannix) but this lacked the emotional depth that her previous stories enjoyed.

The Mystery of Mercy Close by Marian Keyes

mammywalshI’m a big fan of Marian Keyes and was very excited when I found out this was coming out. And very happy to get my name on the holds list early! It was a real pleasure to read something of hers again that revisits the Walsh family. Since I wrote about her books for my St. Patrick’s Day post I’ve been itching to go back and read her earlier books and this definitely made me want to. There are 5 Walsh sisters and this is the final sister’s story-Helen.
Helen doesn’t really like people, she’s brusque, and she doesn’t fit in with folks. She’s a private investigator who’s fallen on hard times-business has dried up and she has lost her house, electricity, etc-and she’s forced to move back in with her parents.  This is all especially difficult because, as she tells us in bits and pieces, she’s had a bout of depression that landed her in a hospital once before, and it seems like it might be happening to her again. Out of the blue an ex-boyfriend comes to her with a very important, top-secret, case: she must find a missing member of a once powerfully famous boy band before the reunion concert scheduled in less than a week’s time.

I really enjoyed this so much. Keyes is always funny and has a great way of blending funny, sassy, strange characters with genuinely heartfelt, realistic, touching emotions. It was a treat to see Mammy Walsh again and little peeks at the other sisters.  And it was fun to have this one be a mystery and try to figure out where Wayne could have gotten to.  The only thing that wasn’t super was the part about her no-longer-friend, Bronagh.  She is alluded to occasionally, always in the past tense, so you know something big has happened to her.  From previous books I assumed it was going to be a huge, very emotional revelation, and it ended up being very anticlimactic and not a big deal to me. But really, that was just a small part of it.  I loved this and it was so much fun to have a Marian Keyes to read again.

The Brightest Star in the Sky by Marian Keyes

I pretty much adore everything Marian Keyes writes.  This is her latest, not out quite yet, and I have to say within 10 pages I was loving it.  The novel is very typical Keyes, which I say in a positive way. It hooks you with humor and maybe a little sexiness or a little romance and then she starts to reveal that the story is deeper and maybe even darker, than you first thought.  I’m not so sure her recent books have been like this, but I thought that here she reminded me of her earlier novels like Sushi for Beginners, Rachel’s Holiday,  and Anybody Out There, which I loved.

In this story a sort-of omniscient spirit visits a house in Dublin that has four apartments.  The narrator tells you all about the residents of each of them and begins to weave their stories together.  There’s the elderly lady who has a touch of the second sight; Kate, who’s just turned 40 and is in a relationship with a wealthy but not so great guy, Conall, two Polish guys who live with feisty Lydia who is a nasty bitch to everyone, and Matt and Maeve, a deeply in love couple.  Matt and Maeve become the central figures in the. At first they appear to be the picture of bliss, but soon little cracks are revealed that show that all is not well or what it seems.  The narrator easily goes back in time to fill in everyone’s stories.

Another winner–absolutely charming.

Good Grief by Lolly Winston

griefThis was our book club choice last month and I’m glad it was chosen because I remember wanting to read it when it came out.  I really enjoyed this, despite a little hesitancy about reading about a young widow.  Since getting engaged (almost six years ago, now married for 5) nothing has been scarier than the thought of my husband dying while we are still young.  We all expect that at some point when we are old one of us will have to live without the other, but no one expects that after finally finding the right person and imagining growing old together your partner might die before you have even gotten out of your honeymoon phase, much less had children.  That is the situation 36 year old Sophie (my age even!) finds herself in when her husband Ethan dies of cancer. Continue reading