Book of the week
THE BREAK MARIAN KEYES PENGUIN RANDOM HOUSE, $38
It took a long time for Amy to trust another man. Her first husband ran off with a younger model, leaving her devastated and bruised. So when her second husband, Hugh, decides he needs a six-month break to get his life back together (he’s become numb and withdrawn after the sudden deaths of his father and best mate in quick succession), Amy goes into freefall and plunges into despair. Except she has such a frantic life – work, kids, ageing parents – that she somehow has to hold it together for the long drawn-out months Hugh is away backpacking around warm tropical paradises in east Asia.
Neeve, Amy’s difficult, self-centred daughter by her first husband, gains fame and a growing income from her fashion vlog after featuring Amy’s mother learning how to live again; younger daughter Kiara (by Hugh), at 16, is relentlessly positive and cheerful, sometimes showing Amy the way through the mire; and teenage Sofie, the niece who came to stay for good, refuses to eat until she can get rid of the baby she and her boyfriend don’t want to keep – somewhat difficult in Ireland where abortion is illegal and punishable by jail.
Meanwhile, Amy’s demanding PR job takes her from Dublin to London two days a week, where she finds temptation with an old flame, Josh. Because if her husband Hugh is on a break, fetching up on Facebook with beautiful women in Thailand, then Amy is on a break too, right?
Gradually, we begin to question just who is at fault here, and shades of grey cloud what at first seemed so black and white. In between online binge-shopping for clothes she doesn’t need, juggling the growing demands of her family, flying to London and back every week, and reinvigorating her sex life, Amy learns some valuable lessons about herself and the power of forgiveness and redemption.
The Break is quite a tome at just under 600 pages, and it would have benefitted from some judicious editing in the first half which, uncharacteristically of Keyes, began to pall. But Keyes once again brings some laugh-outloud moments to relieve the raw, heartwrenching loss that Hugh’s self-enforced break brings to everyone involved. This will be a popular beach-read over the summer break.