*Does a "Marian Keyes is back" dance*
Yes, having been a big Marian Keyes fan for years now I was greatly anticipating her latest release, The Woman Who Stole My Life and so I was thrilled when NetGalley sent me a pre-release to review.
Our protagonist here is Stella, a married mum of two troublesome teenagers who works with her sister as a beautician. Her husband is a designer of very fancy bathrooms (think disco balls) and is a bit of an egomaniac but overall, Stella has a pretty ordinary life. That is until she is struck down by a rare, debilitating and life-altering condition, requiring a lengthy hospital stay.
The book is told in different stages of time; her life before her illness, her time in hospital, her life post-sickness when she writes a best selling book of inspirational quotes and finally, her life post-book, living in New York where she struggles with writers block and tries to produce a second best seller. It sounds almost like there's four books in one there but the stories are cleverly woven amongst each other and it means that Stella becomes a much more well-rounded character because of all of the details of her life that we receive.
I found that the chapters where Stella is in hospital in particular resonated with me. Having been quite unwell myself in the past, I remember well what it feels like to be a patient and to feel stuck in that role- stripping you of a lot of what makes you you and giving you a new "sick person" identity. I felt Keyes captured this element really very well and especially as the condition that Stella has basically means that she's completely trapped, I felt what she felt so acutely that it was almost like being in her hospital bed with her. On that note, it also made me think long and hard about my own nursing care of others and how I've treated patients in a similar situation to Stella. Thankfully, I know that I've always tried to be more mindful and aware than her fictional nurses are but still, I thought it was an impressively written viewpoint and provided some real food for thought.
I won't lie, those chapters are hard going at times but are obviously very important to the storyline and will make you truly root for Stella in her endeavours to get her life back; if anyone deserves to be happy it's her. It's a great example of what the human spirit is capable of and will certainly put your own worries into sharp focus. That said the rest of the book takes on more of a lighter tone with Stella experiencing a burgeoning romance, a move abroad and a pretty manic book tour across America.
The supporting characters in this are equally as entertaining as Stella; I loved her mad sister Karen, her dad reading to her at her hospital bedside and her at times fairly arrogant doctor, Mannix.
I really enjoyed this book, I stayed up late into the night reading it (furtively in the dark on my kindle so as not to wake himself) and I thought it kept the momentum going nicely.
I've said this before about Marian Keyes and I'll say it again; she is undeserving of the title "chick lit". All of her books deal with serious life issues in an incisive and at times heart-breaking fashion; it's a pretty remarkable skill to discuss topics like this in such a sensitive way but then to also infuse them with the classic warmth and Irish wit that Keyes does so naturally is quite special in my opinion.
If you loved her previous novels then I think you'll enjoy this. I've a feeling it's going to be a massive best seller and will no doubt be under many's the Christmas tree this year! It's out on November 6/7th.