* CONTAINS SPOILERS
After touring the U.S. to promote her self-help book, Stella Sweeney finds herself back home in Dublin coming down from the high of her success. Now she is back to where she started: a mother, a divorcee, broke and anxious. Her mind is reeling with thoughts of what she left behind in the States and the uncertainty of what is going to happen next with her life. As Stella begins to rebuild her life in Ireland, the reader travels back in time with her to when the first symptoms of a paralyzing illness bring her world to a crashing halt, the long road to recovery, the end of her marriage in exchange for a new chance at love, and sudden fame and wealth as an author. Calamities never fail to find Stella, yet she manages to look at everything with wit and vibrant positivity.
The Woman Who Stole My Life is a charming story about a middle-aged homemaker and mother coming into her own as a woman. Although I didn’t agree with all of her decisions, Stella Sweeney was an easy character to relate to exactly because of her flaws. She is a woman who works hard in order to take care of her family and realizes she needs to take care of herself too. While the story looks at serious subjects, such as suffering from a severe medical condition, divorce and financial hardship, Marian Keyes keeps the tone upbeat and the jokes coming. I have to admit I did a fair bit of eye-rolling at certain parts, but was impressed that the book wasn’t predictable at all and the shifting time periods come together at the end in a coherent whole.
The Woman Who Stole My Life has its fair share of quirky characters saying quirky things, as well as drama queens, kings and idiots that made me want to tear my hair out. But the worst for me was Stella’s romance with Mannix Taylor, the neurologist. From the first time they meet, the reader is given the impression that Stella doesn’t like him and once they are together that he and Stella don’t have much in common. I think Marian Keyes was trying to add some tension to the romance, but it rang false for me. And the kinky sex stuff? … aahhh! My imagination tried to run away but there was nowhere to hide!
Overall, I liked The Woman Who Stole My Life because it looked at the kind of worries I think about myself as a woman with a similar lifestyle. How do I appear to people? What should I change? Am I doing enough for my kids, my husband? Do I need to do better, more? I think Stella Sweeney’s story about rising and falling, rising and falling, and getting back up yet one more time is life-affirming. I think Marian Keyes wanted to write a story about how we can fail repeatedly, but it’s okay because we have people in our lives that love and respect us even if we’re not thin, rich or famous.
PLEASE NOTE: I received a copy of The Woman Who Stole My Life with much thanks to Penguin Canada, but this in no way influenced the thoughts and opinions expressed in my review.