Light holiday fare with a Lesson from Irish bestseller Ahern (Thanks for the Memories, 2009, etc.).
The author’s variation on A Christmas Carol isn’t subtle. Ahern encourages readers to appreciate the important things (tradition, home, family, etc.). Wealthy executive Lou Suffern neglects his children and cheats on his wife; his only friend is his all-consuming ambition. But Lou’s not entirely bad. On a cold December morning, he buys a coffee for the young homeless man in front of his Dublin office building. They strike up a conversation, and Gabe (short for Gabriel—get it?) reveals that Lou’s boss is having secret lunches with Lou’s rival. Thinking it might be handy to have someone with Gabe’s powers of observation on hand, Lou gets him a job in the mailroom. As the novel unfolds, two things become clear: Lou is so busy that he needs to be in two places at once, and Gabe is able to magically be in two places at once. This leads Gabe, who’s friendly in a sanctimonious, might-be-an-angel kind of way, to give Lou magic pills. Take one, and just for the night he can clone himself, close two business deals at the same time, then go out to celebrate while also heading home to tend to his sick wife and daughter. The cloning helps Lou see the error of his ways. His family really does need him, he realizes, and he really does love them. More epiphanies occur until Lou finally gets it: Life is short, and real estate can’t hug you back.
Ahern has a way with character, but her penchant for the supernatural—angels, ghosts, déjà vu—works against the weight of her story.