I don’t read much Irish fiction, I don’t read much chick lit, and I’m not generally a fan of sibling series (sorry, Mackade, MacKerrick, and all other MacHunkyBrothers fans!) – but when Jen asked me to write about a series I love, I immediately thought of Irish author Marian Keyes and her series of novels about the Irish Walsh sisters.
I found this series many years ago, completely by accident. The first book was titled WATERMELON – which isn’t much of a title, if you ask me (though the many editors who’ve rejected what I thought were perfectly good titles for my own novels might disagree) – and I nearly passed it up because I thought the cover was, well, a bit too frothyfor a serious reader like myself.
But then I started to read, and within half a page I was hooked. I don’t know if I put that book down once – I read it at the breakfast table, in the carpool lane, at the gym, and I even read it out loud to my then-much-younger daughter at bedtime. As soon as it was over I picked up the next in the series. As I write this, I believe I’ve talked myself into starting over again at the beginning.
The five Walsh sisters have sprung from a very odd, very flawed Dublin family. The mom is addicted to soap operas (yet another thing I generally avoid) and the dad is a bit of a rube. No, make that a lot of a rube. They aren’t just charmingly quirky, they’re occasionally dangerously, frequently offensively, and often hurtfully quirky. The sisters don’t get along perfectly – they often don’t get along at all, even as each goes on a journey to find love. This isn’t slapstick comedy – it’s laugh-through-your-tears humor when it’s funny, and sometimes it’s just tears. But I love that kind of book: how zestily can you cheer a heroine who hasn’t suffered? How tight can your heartstrings be stretched unless you truly doubt that the lovers have a chance?
Lately, it’s become more common to see “difficult” themes in romantic fiction – even, and perhaps especially, that written for young adults. But a decade ago it was still rare. I was a fan of addiction memoirs at the time, but I’d never read a story like RACHEL’S HOLIDAY, which managed to be hilarious even though the main character steadfastly refuses to believe in her own addiction. The sisters battle jealousy – career and romantic – and estrangement and tragedy and delusion and a host of other issues that plague “real” families. Because I tend to focus on very dark themes, people are occasionally surprised to see me reading lighter women’s fiction. But I cherish the gentle, wry, very human characters who populate the novels of writers like Keyes – and Rachael Herron and Kristan Higgins and Marisa de los Santos and Elinor Lipman. I’m a cynic with a gimlet eye for human failing, but even I occasionally need to be reminded that love – with all of its awkwardness, unlikeliness, and even heartbreak – is not only possible, it’s inevitable.
Thanks so much to Sophie Littlefield for sharing her favorites with me. I asked Sophie to participate in this feature because her Aftertime trilogy rocked my socks off. A post-apocalyptic world with zombies sets the backdrop for a very character-driven, wrenching story. Now, you can give both Sophie’s books and her recommendation a try. Just enter the Rafflecopter forms below for a chance to win Watermelon or the Aftertime trilogy. US only please.
*”Favorites from…” photo: Copyright (c) 123RF Stock Photos