At twenty-nine, fun-loving, good-natured Claire has everything she ever wanted: a husband she adores, a great apartment, a good job. Then, on the day she gives birth to her first baby, James visits her in the recovery room to inform her that he’s leaving her. Claire is left with a beautiful newborn daughter, a broken heart, and a body that she can hardly bear to look at in the mirror. So, in the absence of any better offers, Claire decides to go home to her family in Dublin. To her gorgeous man-eating sister Helen, her soap-watching mother, her bewildered father. And there, sheltered by the love of an (albeit quirky) family, she gets better. A lot better. In fact, so much better that when James slithers back into her life, he’s in for a bit of a surprise.
Here’s what I thought:
If you’re a big fan of chick-lit you are going to love this Irish author. Her stories are about ordinary things that happen to ordinary people, but she manages to tell them in a way that instead transforms the characters and their predicaments into something extraordinary and hilariously funny.
In this, her first book, we meet Claire. Claire’s life is seemingly perfect, until one day, her life comes tumbling down like a house of cards. Her husband James, pulls the ultimate in douchebaggery by telling her he’s leaving her for another woman after just having given birth to their daughter, Kate. Yeah. That was my reaction too. Here’s what Claire had to say…
“My husband told me about twenty-four hours ago that he has been having an affair for the past six months with – and get this – with a married woman who lives in the apartment two floors below us. I mean, how suburban can you get? And not only is he having an affair but he wants a divorce.I’m sorry if I’m being unnecessarily flippant about this. I’m all over the place. In a moment I’ll be crying again. I’m still in shock, I suppose. Her name is Denise and I know her quite well.
Not quite as well as James does, obviously.
The awful thing is she always seemed to be really nice. She’s thirty-five (don’t ask me how I know this, I just do; and at the risk of sounding very sour grapes and losing your sympathy, she does look thirty-five) and she has two children and a nice husband (quite apart from my one, that is). And apparently she’s moved out of her apartment and he’s moved out of his (or ours, should I say) and they’ve both moved into a new one in a secret location.
Can you believe it? How dramatic can you get? I know her husband is Italian, but I really don’t think he’s likely to kill the pair of them. He’s a waiter, not a Mafia stooge, so what’s he going to do? Black pepper them to death? Compliment them into a coma? Run them over with the dessert trolley?”
To escape this devastating turn of events, Claire and her newborn daughter leave their London apartment and move back to Dublin to live with her parents and two sisters. Once ensconced in a safe environment, we watch as Claire falls spectacularly apart. After a major bout of depression, alcoholism and some serious self-loathing, Claire manages to pull herself together and meets Adam, a college friend of her sister, Helen. Adam is lovely, girls. He’s so damn swoon-worthy and adorable. He’s the perfect guy on paper who is actually almost perfect in deed and in the flesh. That he’s also a little younger than Claire doesn’t hurt. In fact, when James comes waltzing back into her life, expecting Claire to come home… well, we know what happens. Cliché, I know. However, you’ll be cheering and having loads of fun reading about that showdown.
One of the reasons this story works so well is because the author makes it easy to identify with Claire and her predicament. We may not always like what she’s doing but you can’t help but root for her. The only thing about this story that I had trouble with was Kate. She was much too easy to take care of for an infant, leaving Claire to wallow in her misery with nary an inconvenience. If you’re a Mom, you’ll see what I mean. Some of my favorite things about Claire are her left-of-center views of life and her inner-musings…
“Temporary Insanity had come a-calling, and I had shouted “Come in, the door is open.” Luckily, Reality had come home unexpectedly and found Temporary Insanity roaming the corridors of my mind unchecked, going into rooms, opening cupboards, reading my letters, looking in my underwear drawer, that kind of thing. Reality had run and got Sanity. And after a tussle, they both had managed to throw out Temporary Insanity and slam the door in his face.”
This is just one of the many quirky but hilarious passages that represent Claire’s stream of consciousness. Then there is Claire’s family. Her father is adorably oblivious. Her Mum is domestically challenged, a meal is not served that did not first come prepacked and/or frozen. Her view of Claire’s knowledge and use of “Palmerstown cheese and Presto sauce” is one of distrust and wariness. Helen is extremely selfish, narcissistic and shamelessly uses her wiles on men to get whatever she wants. Then there’s Anna, the fun-loving, recreational drug-using hippie. Its a dysfunctional family at its best but we can’t help but love them. And Claire… who can resist a heroine who believes that she and a pair of shoes she saw at the mall were together in a previous life? Who wonders if the person who has the job of writing her life’s dialogue used to work on a very low budget soap opera? I certainly couldn’t. Its been years since I first read this book and its my go-to book when I’m feeling sad or depressed and need a pick-me-up. Claire and her story, have become a best friend. I hope she becomes yours too.