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by Marian Keyes

Pub Date: Jan. 25th, 2010
ISBN: 978-0-670-02140-6
Publisher: Viking

Latest doggedly life-affirming romance from the prolific Irish bestseller (This Charming Man, 2008, etc.), this one set in a Dublin apartment house.

A narrating “spirit” floats among the flats desperate to make sure that at least one romance among the tenants succeeds. Music publicist Katie is frustrated in her relationship with workaholic/chocoholic Conall, a genuine charmer even though he earns his fortune downsizing corporations. Lydia, a tough cookie of a cab driver, keeps falling into sex with her Polish flatmate, even though they hate each other. Octogenarian Jemima, who has psychic powers, is thrilled when her blazingly handsome foster son, small-town gardener Fionn, comes to stay while filming a TV series. Soon Katie has dumped Conall and taken up with Fionn, who has become a local star, while Conall has become Lydia’s unlikely boyfriend. As their comic banter flies, a darker, more poignant plot line follows Matt and Maeve, a young married couple troubled by a secret that threatens their genuine devotion. Thanks to the sporadically all-knowing spirit, readers gradually learn the tenants’ back stories, from Lydia’s struggle to care for her increasingly demented mother to the violence perpetuated against Maeve by her former boyfriend, a political activist who gets his just reward in an act of supernatural vengeance. (It’s interesting, albeit disquieting, that Keyes’ one true villain is a leftist do-gooder, her ultimate hero a corporate downsizer.) The author endows her characters with small idiosyncrasies and imperfections that make them seem more fully developed than they actually are. The narrative is strictly formula: comedy, pathos and shallow spiritual uplift mixed with food and fashion. As partners mix and match, who will end up with whom is never truly in doubt, and the leisurely buildup climaxes in a strained ending with crises and happy resolutions rushing by.

Trite, but Keyes’ lively wit makes it go down easily.