All The Books I Can Read

1 girl….2 many books!

Review: The Woman Who Stole My Life – Marian Keyes

on November 17, 2014

Woman Who Stole My LifeThe Woman Who Stole My Life
Marian Keyes
Penguin Books AUS
2014, 531p
Copy courtesy of the publisher

Stella Sweeney has found herself back in Ireland. After a year of living in New York and touring all over America to promote her self-help book, the dream is over and now she’s back in the house she got in the divorce settlement from her husband with her antagonistic teenage son. She needs to write another book but she’s got some severe writers block and she finds herself typing the same word each time she sits down at her computer.

But how did it all go wrong? At one stage Stella had people lining up to publish her book and she was taking part in a whirlwind tour that crossed the United States until she was so dizzy she didn’t even know what state she was in anymore. Someone keeps calling her but Stella won’t pick up the phone and sometimes, can’t even bring herself to listen to the messages. She’s worried about her son who seems to hate her so much, no matter what she does. And her ex-husband Ryan has clearly lost his marbles and is undertaking a ‘Project Karma’ where he aims to give away every single possession he owns and will rely on the universe providing what he needs. But Stella knows it’s going to be her that has to deal with the fallout.

Stella needs to get back to the woman she was…before all of this.

I absolutely love Marian Keyes – I think she’s one of my overall favourite authors. I’ve been reading her books since I was a teenager and there are several that I would still count among my all-time best books. I’m always excited when she releases a new book and it always goes straight to the top of my TBR pile.

The Woman Who Stole My Life is a stand-alone title featuring Stella Sweeney who was an ordinary woman living in Dublin working with her sister at the beauty shop they own. She was married to her childhood sweetheart Ryan and they had two teenage children, Betsy and Jeffrey when suddenly one day she fell seriously ill with an auto-immune illness. She was hospitalised for about a year, only able to communicate by blinking her eyes. Her family seemed to find her immobility frustrating, almost a personal insult to them at times, especially when they demanded things of her during visits but couldn’t understand her attempts to communicate her answers to them. Only one person seems to understand how Stella is feeling and what she’s trying to say and their visits to her become the highlight of her miserable hospital existence.

Once out of hospital and back at home, Stella finds that things have changed. She has changed. Her relationship with Ryan has changed as well. She begins to move forward and just as she’s doing so, a few strange things combine to give Stella the chance to publish her book in America and go and live there whilst touring. I really loved the Irish setting, because Keyes’ books are so quintessentially Irish. They’re never altered, or ‘dumbed down’ when it comes to vernacular and Irish quirks and that for me, is part of their incredible charm. I’m not entirely sure this worked translated to America, although New York is a setting Keyes has used before with Irish characters. The timeline jumps back and forth between Stella becoming ill and her time in hospital and ‘the after’, when she’s back in Ireland after living in New York as she slowly pieces the backstory together for the reader. I found her illness fascinating and very traumatic. I can’t imagine what it would be like to lie in bed for almost a year, able to see, hear and understand everything around you but not be able to move or communicate yourself. I found her family self-absorbed and frustrating, particularly her husband Ryan who it seems is an immature child trapped in a man’s body. Her children Betsy and Jeffrey are only about 14 and 13 respectively when Stella falls ill and perhaps could be forgiven slightly for their attitudes, particularly Jeffrey’s hostility and resentment that things fell apart when Stella got sick. I’m not sure what they expected, given Stella didn’t choose to get sick and there’s about a 1 in 100,000 chance of contracting the disease she developed.

A lot of the plot in the current day part of the story revolves around Ryan giving away his house, business, car and other possessions in order to reap the benefits of karma. He believes that the universe will provide for him and nothing Stella, nor anyone else says can dissuade him. I’m not entirely sure why this takes up so much of the page space because it’s not particularly relevant to Stella’s story. Ryan is horrible to Stella after they separate and continues to be horrible to her and yet it seems to fall to her to ‘look after him’ or try and prevent him from making this terrible mistake. To me Ryan kind of gets exactly what he deserves but people step in to help him pretty much immediately which is a bit disappointing actually because there was a lesson to be learned there, for him. Reaping what you sow isn’t always a good thing but Ryan is too self-absorbed and childish to really figure it out. The scenes with or about Ryan were my least favourite in the book – I just wanted him to go away so the story could get back to focusing on Stella herself, not Stella running around after other people.

Despite Ryan (and to a less extent Jeffrey, I hope that’s not what I’ve got to look forward to when my two boys become teenagers), I found this book incredibly enjoyable and ended up reading it in a single day. Her Walsh sister books are mostly my favourites but I definitely think this is her best stand-alone in a long time – perhaps since The Last Chance Saloon. It’s definitely the one that I feel is the most complete story and the one I could relate to, which I couldn’t so much with The Brightest Star In The Sky and This Charming Man, even though I did like both of those books as well. I love Keyes’ humour and warmth, these are the sort of books that although they often contain devastating moments and hard times, there’s still a beautifully upbeat tone and lots of focus on friendship, family and love. They might make me sad or even cry at some stage (Anybody Out There? I’m looking at you) but I always feel happy and satisfied when I finish one.


Book #236 of 2014




One response to “Review: The Woman Who Stole My Life – Marian Keyes

  1. Deborah says:

    I’ve never read any Marian Keyes’ novels. I’m hearing mostly positive things about this (her latest!).

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