The roller-coaster tale of a chatty Dublin woman rendered speechless, then renewed by the love of a good doctor—and a terrible literary agent.
From the Brontës to Maeve Binchy to Helen Fielding, British and Irish writers have long specialized in diarylike stories of ordinary women thwarted by unusual circumstances. The Limerick-born Keyes, now on her 13th novel (The Mystery of Mercy Close, 2013, etc.), offers an entertaining if choppy take on the genre. Her heroine, Stella Sweeney, shuttles between the present and recent past to unpeel a quirky love story. While muddling through a mediocre marriage blessed with two surly teens, Stella is felled by a sudden illness that confines her to the hospital for months, unable to move or speak. As her husband grows petulant and her children, more distant, Stella finds herself connecting only with her handsome neurologist, the perfectly named Mannix. He draws an articulate wisdom out of his patient that much of her rambling narrative doesn’t lead us to expect, and the two of them start a stormy relationship after Stella has healed and both their marriages have crumbled. When it turns out that—why not?—the doc has gone ahead and self-published a collection of bedridden Stella’s bons mots, it somehow winds up in the hands of the U.S. vice president’s wife in a photo in People (yes, that’s as convoluted as it sounds). Thus begins Stella’s new career as a memoirist, feeding the American hunger for nuggets of clichéd advice resulting from extreme hardship. Her journey involves Manhattan, money-grubbing publishers, highbrow beauties, oddball relatives, and a lot of phone sex. It’s a fun romp, as they say, but be sure to bring your suspension of disbelief to the book release party.
A salon owner–turned-invalid-turned author struggles to make sense of her life, and sometimes so do we.