Book of the week

THE BREAK MAR­IAN KEYES PEN­GUIN RAN­DOM HOUSE, $38

The Dominion Post - Your Weekend (Dominion Post) - - Books -

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.

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