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Archive for the ‘Marian Keyes’ Category

The Woman Who Stole My LifeWhen I picked up The Woman Who Stole My Life by Marian Keyes, I was wildly excited to read it but really had no intention of reviewing it here.  Shamefully, I’d classed it away as “just chick lit”, something to be read and enjoyed yet not really talked about.  But I’d forgotten the most important thing about Keyes: she pioneered chick lit.  Back before it turned into a risible genre peopled solely by women with shoe fetishes, unhealthy relationships, and glamourous careers that apparently require no effort, Keyes was writing about women who, yes, liked shoes and sparkly things, but who had messy, legitimately troubling lives, and chaotic but always deeply-involved families (siblings, children, parents – all generations welcome).  She reveals the tarnish behind glamourous exteriors and the dark themes of her books – alcoholism, depression, abuse – are chilling but always handled with honestly and a winning sort of gallows humour.  All this makes her a uniquely appealing writer and someone certainly worth discussing.

Stella Sweeney, currently age forty one and a half, has an ex-husband who might be losing his mind, a nineteen year old daughter worryingly engaged to a thirty-six year old lawyer and living in another country, an eighteen year old son obsessed with yoga and unpalatable culinary experiments that seemed designed primarily to torture his mother, and one failed fluke of an inspirational book behind her.  Four years before, she’d been just an ordinary person, working as a beautician, married to her husband of almost twenty years, and mother to two vaguely pleasant teenagers.  Life had been satisfactory.  But four years and a major health crisis, love affair, and failed career later, things are far from okay.

Keyes teases us with Stella’s story, giving the reader tantalizing glimpses of what lies ahead while jumping between the “present” and the defining period of Stella’s Life: when she was paralyzed by an extremely rare disease of the nervous system.  Hospitalized for almost an entire year, her life was turned upside down and the rest of the book follows the fallout – good and bad – of that dramatic shift.

The result is wonderful.  Keyes’ books are always readable but I struggled to put this one down at all.  It’s appealingly hefty (like most of Keyes’ books) but none of it is filler – just compelling storytelling.  So compelling that I didn’t even consider whether a 500-page book was practical reading for my commute on Monday.  It wasn’t, in case you were wondering, but it was worth every awkward contortion when I wanted to turn the page and the sore shoulder I’ll no doubt have after carrying it around in my purse.  It was warm and uplifting and terribly funny (I snorted aloud – gracefully, obviously – more than once).  It was everything you hope and dream that chick lit should be but which only a very few authors can actually deliver.  Keyes, thankfully, is still a master of the genre she helped define.

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