I received an ARC of this book via Netgalley.com and PenguinUK in return for an honest review
Stella has turned forty, her husband is forever working and her two teenage kids are like ships passing the night. Her daughter has a boyfriend now and thinks she's in love, while her son is more interested in yoga and cooking than being a regular teenage boy. Then an unexpected illness means Stella's life is about to change, in more ways than one.
The story zigzags through different stages of a two year period in Stella's life. From hospital in Dublin to hotels around The United States, working in a beauty salon alongside her sister, to having her own self-help book tour. Stella is re-discovering herself but there is someone watching who wants her new life, and will stop at nothing to have it.
I have been a huge fan of Marian Keyes since her first novel Watermelon and have read everything she has written since. From the Walsh Family sagas to her under the duvet stories. Marion has a knack of bringing a sense of Irish comedy into all her books without them seeming contrived. This book had me giggling away from page one with the views on Karma, a Bitter Women's Bookclub and an ex-husband who is clearly going off the rails. Her father was what got me laughing the most. The vision of him reading to Stella aloud when she is in hospital, and his reaction to some of the books, was just hilarious.
Unfortunately, things slid downhill from here. The narrative is weak and the chopping and changing time frames were confusing and eventually became irritating. While some sections were sub-headed with HIM, HER, this confused me more as other sections had no such headings and didn't even seem to gel together in any particular order or relevance. Stella's son Jeffrey seemed to have potential at the start of the book but became a cliche once his parents separated. Moody is one thing, rude and obnoxious is another. Demanding diva like behaviour brought his character to a whole other level, and it was not a good one. Her daughter, Betsy was given a rare appearance and had no substance.
Ryan, the husband, had some bite in him at the beginning, but like his son, became so annoying a character that had he been real, I would have left the country to avoid for ever, bringing my children with me under false travel documents so he could never contact us again. A smarmy, selfish idiot who any sane woman would avoid at all costs!
This bring me to Mannix. The new man who starts off as a knight in shining armor and re-appears, suddenly single, available and hankering after Stella. Not at all put off by her atrocious children and ex, he obviously sees something in Stella that I never spotted and, from here on in, the book sunk.
Far too long ( over 550 pages ), poor story-line and awful characters ( except for Stella's Dad and Mannix's ex ), meant that I had to force myself to care enough to finish. Considering its great beginning, I was sorely disappointed.
However, it is Marian Keyes, and I am sure it will head straight to the number one spot when published in November, just in time for the Christmas market.
Sorry Penguin, this Irish reader wants the old Marian Back.......