Hardcover, 305 pages
Published January 1st 2009 by Harper Collins
My shelves: books-i-own, adult-fiction, chick-lit, christmas-books, cover-appeal, magical-realism, read-in-2011, realistic-fiction
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Description via Goodreads
Lou Suffern is practised in the art of concealment. He is, also, always overstretched, trying to do too many things at once. His overburdened schedule gives him few moments of peace, even in his sleep. And when he spends time at home with his wife and family, he is always distracted, and, mentally, somewhere else.
On a cold winter morning, Lou is on his way to work when he encounters Gabe, a homeless street dweller, sitting outside an office building. Lou is intrigued by him, and contrives to get him a job in the post room. But this act of charity rebounds on him, and Gabe’s presence begins to grate on Lou -- particularly when he discovers that the latter seems capable of being in two places at the same time. Christmas is drawing near, and before the season is over, Lou’s life will be irrevocably change by the casual act of kindness he has performed.
I'll admit that I found Cecelia Ahern to be a better writer than I assumed that she would be. I've not read any of her other books before and from the genre she's known for, chick-lit, I was simply expecting something simple and fun. This book dealt with some every day problems and issues and it was trying to teach us something. The story is set in modern day Dublin, nearing Christmas, and the story is well set with clear, visible descriptions.
In this book, Ahern is trying to tell a story about giving the gift of time. However, near the end, she does come across as though she is giving a lecture and the fact that she is clearly telling the reader what to do and appreciate just doesn't come across well - unfortunately, I found the last, ending paragraph to sound a bit pretentious - not a good way to end a story. I do appreciate the lesson that is given which is to spend time with your loved ones and to let them know that you care about them. Though I don't think it's something that really needs to be pointed out, it gives a nice seasonal message to the story. I found the strong points of the novel to be in the working out of relationships between Lou and his family as they felt very realistic. The dynamics between Lou and his wife and children were especially well explored.
I didn't feel as though Ahern had a very clear direction for this story and her characters weren't very solid. The story is told in the form of a policeman (Raphie) telling a teenage boy (known as Turkey Boy) the story of a case that he worked on. For me, the story of 'Turkey Boy' and conversation between him and Raphie in a few short chapters were more intriguing and felt better developed than the main story of Lou. I couldn't bring myself to like Lou at all - there was simply no part of his persona that appealed to me. Gabe, the character brought into the novel in order to give a message, had a huge amount of potential to be interesting, but he seemed to flit in and out of chapters without any development. Both Lou and Gabe had an uncertainty to them, as though Ahern herself didn't really have a firm idea of them herself.
As for the magical realism in this book, I totally was not expecting it and it completely threw me off. For some people, this may be a nice surprise, but it wasn't for me. I enjoy magical books, but the 'magical cloning pills' that were thrown into this just felt completely random and made the whole thing feel a little disjointed. I know that they were an important component to the storyline, but it almost completely ruined this book for me.
The climax of the book comes around near the end and I can see it being a twist that will either work for you or that you'll really, really resent. Thankfully, for me it worked. Despite reminding me of the ending of One Day by Nicholls (which I didn't enjoy), I found this to be effective in bringing closure to the tale and the message.
This book was not something that I'd particularly recommend, as I didn't enjoy it all that much. However, it was nice to sample what Cecelia Ahern has to offer and I found that her writing was quite creative. I'll certainly be reading more from her in the future, but this one was nothing amazing.