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Rachel’s Holiday ******* Marian Keyes If you have ever taken a peek at my rating system, you have probably noticed that 6 stars is the highest score: the rare praise awarded only for true excellence. And that is exactly why this particular novel received 7. It is, quite simply, the best chick lit book I have read in my whole entire life and nothing comes even remotely close to this very day. Might I add that I first read it about 14 years ago and have been searching for anything equally fabulous ever since? No such luck alas. Nobody can duplicate Ms. Keyes, not even she herself. Even though I love all of her creations, this one has definitely been the best one to date! Well, let me give you a few clues about Rachel’s life. When we first meet our Heroine (the story is told from her perspective in the first person narrative), she has everything perfectly under control and the fact that she has just lost her job, almost died from a drug overdose and got dumped by her boyfriend all comes down to a succession of some very unfortunate circumstances. What’s even more baffling: her best friend of many years seems to be livid with her for some reason (party pooper!) and informs her family about the whole sorry fiasco. Based in Ireland, the Walsh clan promptly dispatches Rachel’s sister, Margaret, to bring the delinquent daughter back home. Barely landed on the soil of her Gaelic ancestors, our misunderstood Protagonist faces some rather alarming behavior from her kin, who all seem convinced that she has a substance abuse problem. As if! Apparently her last chance of redemption is checking into the Cloisters, a rehab place famous for housing druggie celebrities. And so to get everybody off her back, but mostly because she REALLY, like SERIOUSLY needs a holiday, Rachel agrees to go. Honestly, a few Spa treatments, leisurely swims in the pool, some light detox in the sauna, a huge fruit and veggie buffet and hanging out with the rich and famous could be exactly what she needs. Maybe she can even momentarily get her mind off her boyfriend Luke, who left her all confused and broken-hearted, the bastard. Not to mention that surely they will have wine with dinner? Is it possible to make addiction funny without depriving it of any of its gravity and diminishing the catastrophic impact it can have on an individual? Can such a tricky endeavor be undertaken with enough tact, good taste and sensitivity as not to offend the ones affected? Well, let me tell you that as usual, Ms. Keyes has managed the impossible and achieved just that. Thanks to her witty, tongue- in-cheek writing style we get constant relief from the actual subject of the novel, which is dark and haunting. The author herself is a recovering alcoholic, so she has derived her extensive knowledge on the subject from her own experiences. Thanks to Rachel a person greatly ignorant to the intricacies of addiction (like myself) gets an inside look into what it’s really like and why it’s so hard to make that first step, namely break through the denial. As the Heroine’s example demonstrates so clearly, the “stubborn junkies” truly do not see that there is anything wrong with them. And following the story of our girl R. we start from the point of indulgently smiling at her flippant tone and justified indignation at everybody for being such a kill-joy (what a bunch of drama-queens, Mexican telenovela material at the very least!) to actually recognizing, as she herself slowly realizes, with great horror and not a moment too soon that she does, indeed, have a serious problem. What makes this novel so amusing despite its portrayal of the darkest abyss of addiction and the inevitable debauchery  that comes with it, are also the outrageous characters populating the pages. Not only is Rachel’s family one of a kind and quite possibly the reason why she should have become a serial killer on top of being an addict, but also her inmates (pardon, ahem, fellow guests) at Cloisters represent a unique array of quirky, colorful characters. Each of them is painted so vividly he or she literally comes alive as you read, even though realistically you must see that no place on Earth (short of a mental institution perhaps) would house so many lunatics, not even an Irish rehab center. But still you’re buying every word, you can totally picture how things go down, you feel entertained, sometimes stunned or even disgusted, but ultimately full of compassion, understanding and forgiveness. You watch, crying tears of laughter (and maybe a few of despair here and there), equally fascinated and appalled as you find out more about the true nature of these people. You applaud them as you watch them strive to win their dignity back. Last but not least, another factor contributing to the overall feel-good factor of the novel is the great use of the language: Ms. Keyes exploits the Irish mannerisms to their fullest and if I will ever find out that the inhabitants of that enchanting island actually talk like that in real life, I am moving there IMMEDIATELY! Above all, Rachel’s Holiday is an inspirational tale, one of self-recognition and fighting very difficult odds to win back a chance at a normal life. We watch our Heroine fall very deep, we see her take one step forward and two steps back, but in the end we witness her growth and rebirth. She gets her act together, who knows: maybe she even gets the boyfriend back? But I’m not going to tell you, to find out you will have to read the novel. And if you are the person of the impeccable taste that I know you to be, you will be hooked after the first few pages! I personally must have devoured this book like 10 times and laughed on every such delightful occasion. All right, I admit it could be because the author has quite possibly the identical sense of humor that I do (only she is, of course, like a million times funnier), nonetheless if you are not entertained I will be greatly surprised. In fact I might even book you a place at the famous (albeit fictional) Cloisters, for some apparently very much needed humor therapy. Now stop giving me such looks (presumably out of gratitude?), you’re quite welcome. P.S. Ms. Keyes, if you by any chance ever read this review please know that I absolutely worship and adore you!!! You are my hero and my idol and I would give anything to spend 5 minutes in your divine presence… So if you ever come to Vegas and feel like being taken out on the town (or taken anywhere at all, I’ll even settle on chauffeuring you to the airport), it will be my honor to do just that ;-)!
RATING     ****** excellent     ***** very good     ****good     *** average     ** pretty bad     * horrible

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Rachel’s Holiday ******* Marian Keyes If you have ever taken a peek at my rating system, you have probably noticed that 6 stars is the highest score: the rare praise awarded only for true excellence. And that is exactly why this particular novel received 7. It is, quite simply, the best chick lit book I have read in my whole entire life and nothing comes even remotely close to this very day. Might I add that I first read it about 14 years ago and have been searching for anything equally fabulous ever since? No such luck alas. Nobody can duplicate Ms. Keyes, not even she herself. Even though I love all of her creations, this one has definitely been the best one to date! Well, let me give you a few clues about Rachel’s life. When we first meet our Heroine (the story is told from her perspective in the first person narrative), she has everything perfectly under control and the fact that she has just lost her job, almost died from a drug overdose and got dumped by her boyfriend all comes down to a succession of some very unfortunate circumstances. What’s even more baffling: her best friend of many years seems to be livid with her for some reason (party pooper!) and informs her family about the whole sorry fiasco. Based in Ireland, the Walsh clan promptly dispatches Rachel’s sister, Margaret, to bring the delinquent daughter back home. Barely landed on the soil of her Gaelic ancestors, our misunderstood Protagonist faces some rather alarming behavior from her kin, who all seem convinced that she has a substance abuse problem. As if! Apparently her last chance of redemption is checking into the Cloisters, a rehab place famous for housing druggie celebrities. And so to get everybody off her back, but mostly because she REALLY, like SERIOUSLY needs a holiday, Rachel agrees to go. Honestly, a few Spa treatments, leisurely swims in the pool, some light detox in the sauna, a huge fruit and veggie buffet and hanging out with the rich and famous could be exactly what she needs. Maybe she can even momentarily get her mind off her boyfriend Luke, who left her all confused and broken-hearted, the bastard. Not to mention that surely they will have wine with dinner? Is it possible to make addiction funny without depriving it of any of its gravity and diminishing the catastrophic impact it can have on an individual? Can such a tricky endeavor be undertaken with enough tact, good taste and sensitivity as not to offend the ones affected? Well, let me tell you that as usual, Ms. Keyes has managed the impossible and achieved just that. Thanks to her witty, tongue-in- cheek writing style we get constant relief from the actual subject of the novel, which is dark and haunting. The author herself is a recovering alcoholic, so she has derived her extensive knowledge on the subject from her own experiences. Thanks to Rachel a person greatly ignorant to the intricacies of addiction (like myself) gets an inside look into what it’s really like and why it’s so hard to make that first step, namely break through the denial. As the Heroine’s example demonstrates so clearly, the “stubborn junkies” truly do not see that there is anything wrong with them. And following the story of our girl R. we start from the point of indulgently smiling at her flippant tone and justified indignation at everybody for being such a kill-joy (what a bunch of drama-queens, Mexican telenovela material at the very least!) to actually recognizing, as she herself slowly realizes, with great horror and not a moment too soon that she does, indeed, have a serious problem. What makes this novel so amusing despite its portrayal of the darkest abyss of addiction and the inevitable debauchery  that comes with it, are also the outrageous characters populating the pages. Not only is Rachel’s family one of a kind and quite possibly the reason why she should have become a serial killer on top of being an addict, but also her inmates (pardon, ahem, fellow guests) at Cloisters represent a unique array of quirky, colorful characters. Each of them is painted so vividly he or she literally comes alive as you read, even though realistically you must see that no place on Earth (short of a mental institution perhaps) would house so many lunatics, not even an Irish rehab center. But still you’re buying every word, you can totally picture how things go down, you feel entertained, sometimes stunned or even disgusted, but ultimately full of compassion, understanding and forgiveness. You watch, crying tears of laughter (and maybe a few of despair here and there), equally fascinated and appalled as you find out more about the true nature of these people. You applaud them as you watch them strive to win their dignity back. Last but not least, another factor contributing to the overall feel- good factor of the novel is the great use of the language: Ms. Keyes exploits the Irish mannerisms to their fullest and if I will ever find out that the inhabitants of that enchanting island actually talk like that in real life, I am moving there IMMEDIATELY! Above all, Rachel’s Holiday is an inspirational tale, one of self-recognition and fighting very difficult odds to win back a chance at a normal life. We watch our Heroine fall very deep, we see her take one step forward and two steps back, but in the end we witness her growth and rebirth. She gets her act together, who knows: maybe she even gets the boyfriend back? But I’m not going to tell you, to find out you will have to read the novel. And if you are the person of the impeccable taste that I know you to be, you will be hooked after the first few pages! I personally must have devoured this book like 10 times and laughed on every such delightful occasion. All right, I admit it could be because the author has quite possibly the identical sense of humor that I do (only she is, of course, like a million times funnier), nonetheless if you are not entertained I will be greatly surprised. In fact I might even book you a place at the famous (albeit fictional) Cloisters, for some apparently very much needed humor therapy. Now stop giving me such looks (presumably out of gratitude?), you’re quite welcome. P.S. Ms. Keyes, if you by any chance ever read this review please know that I absolutely worship and adore you!!! You are my hero and my idol and I would give anything to spend 5 minutes in your divine presence… So if you ever come to Vegas and feel like being taken out on the town (or taken anywhere at all, I’ll even settle on chauffeuring you to the airport), it will be my honor to do just that ;-)!
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