‘The Woman who Stole my Life’ is told using two timelines, starting in the present where we are introduced to Stella Sweeney, a self-help book author who has just returned to Dublin, Ireland after spending a year living in New York and travelling all over the USA promoting her book. She is sad and broken, frustrated with her teenage son, who would rather spend the day doing yoga instead of typical teenage boy activities.
The second timeline introduces the reader to Stella Sweeney from about 4 years in the past. She is a 40 year old woman, living an ordinary, uneventful life in Dublin. Married to Ryan, bathroom designer extraordinaire, and mother to Betsy and Jeffrey, she works as a beautician with her sister Karen at the Honey Day Spa. Unexpectedly, Stella is stricken by a life threatening illness that leaves her paralysed, able to communicate only through blinking. This singular event catapults Stella on a path of change, a path that will forever alter her life.
While Stella works hard to promote her book, forces are working against her and as we soon discover, things are not exactly as they appear. As these two timelines are slowly and intricately woven together, a sense of mystery builds and urges the reader to keep reading, until the final moment of unveiling, when we discover the reason for Stella’s hasty and unceremonious return to Dublin. Will she recover from this latest setback and find success and happiness? And who is this mysterious man leaving her phone messages?
Marian Keyes has written a touching novel that was at times witty and funny, heartwarming and inspirational. The characters are real and down to earth and very easy for the reader to relate to. Both their struggles and successes are known to us and as such the reader can see themselves in whole or in part in these characters. Stella’s eccentric parents, her high strung friend Zoe and Karen’s husband Enda, the imposing chief of the Gardai, round out Stella’s immediate circle, and provide much of the comic relief of this book.
I found myself cheering for Stella and hoping for her recovery, success and happiness. Her words of wisdom were simple yet empowering and left me, on more than one occasion, smiling. On the whole, a very satisfying, good-feel read. I give it a solid 4/5 stars.