Wednesday, 15 July 2009

Rachel's Holiday - Marian Keyes

Rachel's Holiday (1997) is the third novel based around the Walsh family sisters written by Irish author, Marian Keyes. This one focuses on the middle of the five sisters, Rachel, and her struggle to overcome her drug addiction. Her "holiday" is, in fact, a two-month stint in the Cloisters, a fictional rehab centre in Ireland. Of course, Rachel's not really supposed to be there; she doesn't have a problem. She feels sorry for all those other 'inmates' who are so obviously in denial and continue to screw up their lives because of their addictions to alcohol, drugs, and even food. But she's not like them, not at all. She can stop any time she wants to, if she wants to.

Rachel hardly takes any drugs anyway, no more than anyone else in New York, and if you had a job as hard as hers then you'd need something to help you get through the day, too. She has only agreed to go to keep her family happy, and maybe spot some celebrities along the way (rehab is very trendy, darling), but she's not going to actually participate because she doesn't need to. It's a familiar tune.

Basing many of the experiences on Keyes's own battle with alcoholism, the story is told with great insight, yet Keyes's warmth and humour never fails. In no way does she belittle the inmates she introduces us to; while she paints very quirky pictures of some of the characters, she also helps readers (Rachel) to see that the source of many addictions is low self esteem and even lower self respect. However, we are all responsible for our actions and our past (or present) circumstances do not give us an excuse to abuse ourselves or anyone else.

It almost seems inappropriate to say that a book about rehab was enjoyable or entertaining to read. However, Keyes hits the mark beautifully with Rachel's Holiday, telling the tale with both humour and humility.


Evelyn said...

This looks like a book I'd love to check out!

Kelly said...

I really enjoy Marian's older stuff, much preferable to her recent offerings in my opinion. I think Helen is the only Walsh sibling not to have a book about her yet, hopefully that's the next one Ms Keyes produces.