A buttoned-up Irish woman finds her life transformed when she meets a soulful man who may not exist.
Ahern (Love, Rosie, 2005, etc.) sets her third novel in a sleepy and picturesque Irish burg well-suited to magical happenings. Among its inhabitants is reluctant single parent Elizabeth Egan, who has few reasons to believe in magic. Abandoned by her “free spirit” mother at an early age, she was forced to take care of her much younger sister, Saoirse, with little help from her emotionally distant farmer dad. Saoirse (Gaelic for “freedom”) grows up to become a wild and troubled teenager with a baby of her own. When she shows no interest in taking care of the child, Luke, Elizabeth adopts him. Realist-by-default Elizabeth has little patience when, at age 6, Luke starts playing with an invisible companion he calls Ivan. When Elizabeth actually starts seeing Ivan, she mistakenly believes he is the father of a local boy. Ivan, who considers himself a professional best friend helping youngsters in need, realizes that Elizabeth would benefit from his services as much as Luke would. He teaches her to be spontaneous and silly and helps her come to terms with her unhappy childhood. (Ivan also confronts certain ethical issues when he finds himself interested in Elizabeth in more than a professional capacity.) Is Ivan a figment of Elizabeth’s sleep-deprived and caffeine-addled brain, or a tall, blue-eyed dream guy?
Ahern’s fairytale is at times insufferably whimsical, with a main character whose idea of fun is spinning around on chairs and speaking backwards.