THE WOMAN WHO STOLE MY LIFE
Author: Marian Keyes
Michael Joseph RRP $29.99
Review: Monique Mulligan
Lovers of Marian Keyes’ work will have been eagerly awaiting The Woman who Stole my Life. I’ve read earlier books by Keyes and enjoyed them, but her more recent books have just missed the mark for me. I keep getting a sense that she’s trying a bit too hard to be jolly, like a smile that doesn’t reach the eyes. Before I read this one, I saw that reviews were mixed … so I decided it was time to make my own mind up.
The story has an interesting narrative style in that it is told by the protagonist, Stella Sweeney, in two different time periods – before and after an accident and subsequent illness that changes her life. I say interesting, because it is somewhat confusing at the start, but gradually, as the time periods merge, everything starts to make more sense.
Backtrack a couple of years … Stella Sweeney is an average, long-time married Dublin mum when she contracts a rare illness that robs her of movement and speech for an extended period of time. The only person she seems to be able to communicate with, using a system of blinks that most of her family finds inconvenient, is her doctor. When the ‘words of wisdom’ she shared with him, one blink at a time, turn up in a book he put together in her name, it starts a rollercoaster ride to the heights of fame and down again. Along the way, her relationships with her husband and children are tested, and Stella has to decide what will really make her happy in life.
The plot places significant emphasis on the notion of karma – popularly referred to as ‘what goes around comes around’ – with one of the main sub-plots revolving around Stella’s husband’s attempt to attract good karma. It’s pretty lightweight. What was most interesting to me was the depiction of Guillain-Barrè syndrome, a rare autoimmune condition that strikes Stella down. I knew very little of the disease before I read this book. Awareness aside, the way Stella’s family reacted to the illness – quite stunning in their selfishness at times – had me shaking my head.
Although I struggled with the structure initially, I persevered and ended up liking the book overall. I didn’t love it though. It didn’t leave me uplifted or satisfied from reading … my smiles didn’t quite reach my eyes. Again, I had that sense that the humour was forced, as if Keyes didn’t really feel the laughs.
You’ll have to make up your own mind on this one.
Available from good bookstores and Penguin Books Australia. My copy was courtesy of Penguin Books Australia.
Bookish treat: To stop myself from eating the treats I’ve bought for the kids’ Christmas stockings, I had to make popcorn. A lot was consumed during the reading of this book.