I’ve always liked the work of Marian Keyes. I’m sure that her sparkly, candy coloured covers have turned some readers off, believing them to be nothing more than shallow chick lit, filled with heroines who’s biggest problems are marrying the right guy and having enough money to buy shoes.
But those readers would be wrong. Keyes’ work is actually a lot more serious than I think she’s given credit for. Her heroines are often struggling with addiction, mental health issues, the death of a loved one, or abusive relationships. They are absolutely sprinkled liberally with laughs and some truly ridiculous escapades but I’ve never had trouble finding something of worth in her work.
So I was excited to read The Woman Who Stole My Life. This latest effort was vague on plot but I assumed that it was because giving too much away would ruin it. To an extent, I suppose that’s true. All I knew going in was that there was this man that Stella Sweeney met that would make all kinds of things happen.
The Woman Who Stole My Life was not what I expected from Marian Keyes at all but it didn’t exceed my expectations either.
In the very beginning, Stella is going on about karma and how she’s a big believer in it even though her artist husband, Ryan, thinks she’s nuts. As she’s driving around town, she slows to let a man in a range rover merge and ends up getting rear-ended and t-bones the car she was trying to help out.
Then it’s years in the future and Stella is back in her little Irish house with a surly teenaged son, worrying about money and staring at a blank computer screen, willing some inspiration to strike so that she can write her new book. The rest of the book is supposed to fill in the blanks.
And it does. There’s a bizarre medical situation with a rare neurological disorder that basically leaves Stella a prisoner in her own body (basically my nightmare) and her neurologist is the only one who can communicate with her, the same man, of course, who she t-boned that day months earlier.
The back and forth in time narrative didn’t work for me. Normally I’m up for that – I like seeing where a character has ended up as a way of trying to work out what happened to the earlier version. This time, it seemed unnecessary and confusing. It added pages and pages to this book that didn’t need to be added. I went through the whole book thinking that the title referred to Stella herself but the end revealed something completely different. Again, I would have been more than ok with that (I love when an author outsmarts me) but it seemed forced, rushed, like the proper foundation hadn’t been laid for me to get to this point.
I have come to expect plucky, cheeky, smart heroines from Marian Keyes. They can be kicked around by life but they always have something to redeem them, something that sets them back on their right path. Often they are surrounded by their hilarious supporting cast family (I’m thinking mainly of the Walshes, have you read any of the books to feature the Walshes?). I’m not used to a broken, self-pitying heroine who married a perfect twit and lets all the big decisions in her life be made by a man. I’m not used to it and I don’t accept it from Marian Keyes.