I’m a big fan of Marian Keyes. I’ve read all her Walsh family books so far, which I love and have started to read others. When I saw The Woman Who Stole My Life on NetGalley, I pressed request right away and was lucky enough to be approved to read it.
The story starts with Stella, a mother of two in her early 40s who has returned home to Ireland from America as a bit of a failure. We find out that she had some minor success as an author but it didn’t go exactly to plan and Stella is desperately trying to pick up the pieces again. She has two grumpy teenagers to deal with, an ex-husband who suddenly decides he’s going to give away EVERYTHING he owns and she’s also put on weight and has found herself with a belly. The story then cuts back to events that lead up to Stella becoming an author. Struck down with a rare illness, Stella winds up in intensive care unable to move any of her body except her eyelids. Stella spends her time in IC counting down the hours until she is moved position in her bed, completely bored out of her mind. Until Dr Mannix, a neurologist, comes along. They develop a way of communicating and in term develop a bond together.
The storyline itself zigzags back and forth through different timelines, gradually pulling the story together. I’m not sure if I was a massive fan of this. I can see why it was done in a way but at times it frustrated me. I know if it was done linearly the ending wouldn’t really have worked but I think the whole American side of the story might have been a bit more thrilling if it was done that way. I also didn’t get some of the headings over parts of the books (Him, Her, Me) or how they impacted the story.
As for the characters, there were a lot of annoying ones. Stella’s son Jeffery had potential at times, but he was so horrible at other times that I couldn’t believe he wasn’t told to cop on. I know kids can play up when parents split up but he was so defiant at times! There were times I did like him though. Her ex-husband Ryan was an eejit too, I know we’re not really supposed to root for him anyway but he was so bitter to Stella at times. He turns into a right dick after she finds some success! After she recovered from her illness, I felt Stella got barely any support or understanding from her family and she didn’t say anything about it as she felt so guilty getting sick and missing so much of their lives. I did appreciate this viewpoint as I know a lot of people would feel like this, especially mothers, but I really wanted Stella to tell them to cop on at times! As a main character, I did like Stella most the time and I enjoyed her relationship with Mannix. As for other characters I liked, they were Karen her younger tenacious sister and their book mad father.
Keyes’ trademark humour is all over this and I found myself laughing out loud at times. I love that her wit has this Irish spin on it, like phrases and family dynamics. As I’ve mentioned before, it can be easy to dismiss Keyes as being ‘just’ chick lit but she always brings this other dimension. She’s tackled serious issues in previous novels and this one is no different, from the point of view of being seriously ill and stuck in hospital over a long stretch. I found myself in hospital once for a few days with my appendix and it wasn’t the best situation so I can’t imagine being there for months and months on end. But because Keyes brings humour into her stories it stops them from being downers.
I did feel this book was slightly different to her other stories. Maybe it’s because I’m a massive fan of the Walsh family saga that I didn’t love this like I do them? I did enjoy the book though, don’t get me wrong, it’s a quick read but perhaps a bit slow to get into. Still a worthy read if you’re a fan of Keyes.
This book was requested on NetGalley. I am under no obligation to post a review and when I do, all opinions are my own.