Monday, January 5, 2009

Title Eleven: Anybody Out There? by Marian Keyes

Anna Walsh is in the front room of her family home in Dublin with a busted knee and a Frankenstein-esque stitch job down her face and, in an interesting touch, missing two fingernails (I don't know why, but that detail really gets me). Anna is fuzzy on the accident that brought her back to Dublin, but she knows that she needs to get back to New York, her cosmetics PR job, and her husband Aidan right away. As readers and fans of Keyes' Walsh girls know, Clan Walsh is loud, boisterous, and batshit insane, in a good-but-still-get-me-out-of-here kind of way. The second the doctor clears Anna and her "gammy" knee, her older sister Rachel comes from NYC to Dublin to collect Anna and take her home, away from youngest sister Helen (now a private investigator) and their parents. It's only when Anna exits the airport and has a small anxiety attack at the prospect of getting in a cab does Keyes start to pull back the curtain a little bit on what the hell, exactly, has happened here.

Told from Anna's point of view, the novel uses a cute mix of present narration and flashbacks to describe Anna's life after her accident, her friends, and her job along with the backstory of her move to America and the development of her relationship with Aidan. But where is Aidan? Anna emails him every day and leaves messages on his voicemail, but he doesn't return them. She obsesses over reading his horoscope each day, bristling when it refers to a new start or relationship. Interestingly, she does not discuss Aidan with anyone - her sister, her friends, or her coworkers, leaving a puzzle in place - if Aidan is so wonderful, then where the hell has he gone? If you're not an idiot like me, you've already figured it out. If you are as thick as I am, the answer will punch you in the solar plexus right around page 154.

Woven through Anna's new life without Aidan and her ways of dealing with it are hilarious descriptions of her job - she reps a line that requires her to dress like a cross between Lily Allen and Chloe Sevigny and battle tooth and nail for product mentions in newspapers and magazines while contending with a boss who bears a close resemblance to Anna Wintour - and touching scenes between her and Rachel, a recovering addict who does her very best to help Anna however she can, along with email dispatches from home regarding Helen's job and their mother's overenthusiastic involvement in it. Keyes manages to shift seamlessly between lightheartedness and deeper emotion while never feeling contrived for most of the novel, until she throws in a plot twist that seems a little trite and which I found irritating at first. However, by the end of the book I came around because it keeps the entire thing from being too pat and gives it a greater sense of depth and realism.

Anybody Out There? is one of my two favorite Keyes novels, the other being Rachel's Holiday. I actually love every Keyes book I've ever read, because she's estrogen-friendly without the trappings of chick lit. Her characters are all likeable but flawed, and that's probably her greatest strength; you can't help but fall in love with them and want to see more of them. While I wouldn't recommend this novel for a discussion on gender studies, it's the perfect read for a beach or snow day.


jamiepants said...

I, too, love Marian Keyes...and Rachel's Holiday is my favorite. Even though every book is essentially the same story, I'm still entertained by every one. I haven't read this one I'll have to check it out.

MelodyLane said...

I love this book. Like you, it is a serious gut punch when you figure it out. I want to read Anna's story next. Very nice review.

Nicole said...

Thanks Melody!

Jamie, if you want to borrow it, let me know - it's why God invented media mail. Have you read Last Chance Saloon? That's a great one as well.