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.

A St. Patrick’s Day Reading List

My Irish soda bread is in the oven and my corned beef and cabbage is in the crock pot, so I thought I’d take a moment to recommend some of my favorite Irish authors/books.

First up, Maeve Binchy.  Although Ms. Binchy may be responsible for me having a rather outdated (it must be) view of what life in Ireland is like, I simply love her books. She has a long writing career and many of her books feature characters who’ve shown up in other stories. Romances, secrets, heartdrama, and heartwarming tales are her mainstays. She’s often a rather cozy writer. Some of my favorites are:  Nights of Rain and Stars–in which the characters are in a small Greek village and bound together by sharing a tragic day together.  Her depictions of the setting are wonderful, as is the way she tells the individuals’ stories and their collective story. Heart and Soul is a great one and features one of the characters you’ve met in Nights of Rain and Stars, which is nice. It’s about a woman trying to establish a heart clinic in Dublin and at odds with other hospital administrators.  Whitethorn Woods sets up a framework for a story that has each chapter telling a character’s story. Again, overall story and interconnected stories. I’ve read many, many of her novels and the ones that I’ve reviewed can be found here. Not all of her characters are sweet and happy-there is real bitterness, anger, and poor choices in many of them, but they are a necessary balance in the stories.  She’s a really love writer!

sushiMarian Keyes is also an old favorite for me.  I haven’t read anything in a while but there was a period where her novels came out more frequently and I was beyond excited for each of them.  Please don’t dismiss her as fluffy chick lit (especially as newer book covers might make them appear that way.) All of her writing is funny and sassy but the books I want to recommend are now marketed as the Walsh Family books: Watermelon, Angels, Anybody Out There?, and Rachel’s Holiday. The Mystery of Mercy Close is the newest, due out next month. They are not really a series, it’s just that in a family with 5 sisters each one gets a book. I was possibly on the third book before I recognized the siblings, so they are not dependent on each other-it’s just a nice tie in.  Anyway, Keyes writes about real difficulties and hard times with a wonderful touch of humor and love. Sushi for Beginners, Lucy Sullivan is Getting Married, and The Brightest Star in the Sky are not included in that group about the Walsh family, but they are equally wonderful and hilarious.  One of her books that most impressed me was Rachel’s Holiday. Rachel ends up rehab even though she doesn’t really believe she has an addiction problem.  The reader moves as slowly as Rachel herself in realizing that she really does need to be there. And The Brightest Star in the Sky is really touching and lovely. It’s been 10 years since I read Watermelon, and just writing this makes me want to go back and reread them all.

mollyFinally, the Molly Murphy mysteries by Rhys Bowen are wonderful works of historical fiction and good mysteries to boot. Start with the first one, Murphy’s Law, to understand the Irish immigrant experience.  Molly Murphy escapes a murder charge in Ireland and travels to America in steerage with two young children.  Their arrival on Ellis Island is somewhat harrowing and presumably a very accurate description of Irish immigration.  I’ve read three of the books so far and you can see their full reviews here.

 

So there you have it. Get your green on with some Irish reading, whether it be contemporary, historical, cozy, or mystery.  Happy St. Patrick’s Day!