Sunday, January 22, 2017

Motley New and Chick Lit Too: A Case of Mistaken Serenity

 The Real Teal Necklace

Sweater: Jeanne Pierre, Marshalls
Skirt: Marshalls
Shoes: Nine West, DSW
Bag: Apt. 9, Kohl's
Belt: Cape Charles, VA shop
Sunglasses: J. C. Penney's

Top: Marshalls
Skirt: I Heart Ronson, J. C. Penney's
Shoes: Betseyville, Macy's
Bag: Xhilaration, Target
Belt: B Fabulous
Sunglasses: J. C. Penney's 

Buttercup Betty Necklace

Top: XOXO, Macy's
Skirt: Modcloth
Shoes: Kensie, DSW
Bag: Betsey Johnson, Macy's
Sunglasses: Party City

This week's necklaces are a mishmosh of components and styles.  I made The Real Teal with rhinestone sliders from two broken (store-bought) bracelets.  I liked attaching them to a plastic chain instead of stringing them along wire because the result was something modern with movement -- in other words, a bauble that boogies.  As for the others, Eclectic Elephants is a twist on my old rampage theme, and Buttercup Betty stars the last of my vintage oval pendants.  The cluster of daisy beads gives it that extra special retro something, don't you think?

But the hoopla doesn't end with the hardware.  Which is my not-so-subtle way of saying that it's time for the book report portion of this post. 

When I first heard of Marian Keyes's The Woman Who Stole My Life, I thought it was a novel about identity theft.  So I was all set for a rollicking tale of hijinks and shopping sprees punctuated by the obligatory lesson on self-discovery.  Kind of like that "Friends" episode where Monica's credit card is stolen and she takes up tap dancing.  Turns out, it isn't about that at all.  The title is an echo of what the main character's husband, a frustrated artist, says when she gets a book deal after surviving an extremely rare illness.  

Stella Sweeney, wife, mother, and beautician, is suddenly struck with Guillain-Barre syndrome.  Every part of her body except for her eyelids (and, I think, her internal organs) is paralyzed, which means that she spends months in the hospital trying to regain feeling.  So imprisoned, she's forced to spend every second with her thoughts and fears.  Her husband, Ryan, and two teenage children are beside themselves with grief and worry.  At first.  But as time marches on and Stella does not (she doesn't die; this is just my clever way of saying that she still can't walk), their concern turns to resentment, and they begin to barrage Stella with workaday queries, namely, "The tenants from Sandycove have given their notice.  What am I to do about it?" and (more entertainingly) "Where is my bunny rabbit onesie?".  "Huh?" you're probably thinking.  "How can they ask her anything?  She can't even talk!"  But she can.  Sort of.  Stella's neurologist and lone champion, Dr. Mannix Taylor, has devised a communication system in which she answers questions by blinking.  He does the heavy lifting by suggesting letters, and Stella blinks when he's gotten one right.  Dr. Taylor records everything in a series of notebooks to document Stella's progress -- as well as her many witticisms, such as, "When is a yawn not a yawn?  When it's a miracle."  Thus, Stella and Mannix get to know each other "one blink at a time" (this isn't me being clever, but Keyes; stick around and you'll see why; okay, the "see" was me and I'm sorry).  They joke, flirt, and commiserate, becoming acquainted with the most intimate details of each other's lives.  At the same time, Stella's relationship with Ryan becomes more strained and stilted, slowly revealing their marriage to be one of convenience -- or, rather, inconvenience, with Stella cast in the role of servant.  Oh yes, this tale oozes feminist outrage, cunningly so through the stark sound of silence.  Not that it's all sick bed reflections and social commentary.  This is Keyes, after all, the queen of quick wit and comic timing. Which is to say that there are (some) hijinks.

Stella survives -- even if her old life doesn't.  After much emotional hemming and hawing, she tells Ryan that she wants a divorce and embarks upon a proper romance with Mannix, who also, it should be noted, has initiated divorce proceedings (which in Ireland -- who knew? -- take five years).  After a brief misunderstanding between Stella and Mannix, Mannix makes a grand gesture by self publishing a book based on his notebooks called -- wait for it -- One Blink at a Time.  One drug-addict-Vice-President's-wife-turned-nun later (don't ask), Stella and Mannix are a bona fide couple, and Stella is being courted by a New York publishing house.  She and Mannix move the kids stateside and begin the tedious business of fine-tuning the book -- as well as Stella's image.

Oh, the fame monster.  Never satisfied, demanding every pound of unmoisturized flesh.  But the art director of one of Stella's magazine shoots puts it much better than I can:

' "This!" Berrie pointed at Mannix and got the attention of everyone in the room.  "This right here is why we don't encourage boyfriends on author shoots."  To Mannix, he said, "You don't get it.  It's not who you think Stella is; it's who we decide she is.  And we decide she's cozy and safe.  It's how her book will sell." ' (350)

Mannix buys Stella the too-flashy Jimmy Choos that Berrie forbids her to wear -- at a 50% discount from the stylist, natch -- because that's just the kind of guy he is.  But the unpleasantness of Berrie's words linger, casting a pall on the proceedings and the rest of the story. 

Make no mistake, I enjoyed this book.  Keyes is one of my favorite authors.  Her novels are smart and funny and full of glamour and Irish charm and heart.  But for me, this one is a little anticlimactic.  Stella never finds herself or figures out what she really wants (aside from Mannix, of course, although, god though he is, he doesn't seem like enough).  If Ryan kept her down, then Mannix gives her wings -- but she doesn't seem to go anywhere.  Then again, Ryan never finds himself either (not that he deserves to, the punk), and in his own deluded way (he seeks Internet fame by giving away everything he owns), he tries very hard.  So maybe that's the takeaway from this story.  That trying too hard is overrated and that happiness comes from letting go.  

Or maybe, as usual, I'm, ahem, reading too much into things.

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