Martina Reilly has been on the scene since 1997, when, as Martina Murphy, she wrote prize winning books for teenagers. In 2001, she turned to adult fiction, changing her name to Tina Reilly. Eleven books on, with an Impact long listing, and another change of name, she’s writing consistently engaging books which make you think as well as laugh.
A Moment Like Forever starts with a fire. Andrea, known as Andy, lives alone with her ferociously dominant cat, Baz. She has mixed feelings when her sister Kate, a DJ who discusses sex on a Dublin radio show, asks if she and her boyfriend can move in whilst their gutted flat is renovated. Her solitary life suits her; she works from home, and rarely ventures out.
Soon we learn that Andy is scared to be seen. Once beautiful, she has a scar on her face — acquired two years earlier, when, travelling through Australia with her best friend, Lexi, they were involved in a horrendous bus crash. Lexi disappeared, and meanwhile, Andy has lost her boyfriend, her high powered job, and her confidence.
She now works for a specialist funeral magazine, for a boss, Alastair, who has almost as little confidence as she does. If this sounds depressing, it’s anything but. A master of comic timing, Martina can make the darkest situation funny.
Andy doesn’t date; but she has the greatest fun trying to help the hapless Alastair pursue the woman he idolises. That her help misfires in spectacular fashion doesn’t stop her interference one iota.
Meanwhile, we catch up with Lexi, who has found solace in small town Australia. She’s not happy; how could she be after the trauma she’s suffered, but she’s starting to find a little peace. Or is she? This clever sub-plot has a surprising twist that will leave the reader gasping.
The deepness of Andy’s insecurity creeps up on the reader as the novel progresses. There are things about that crash she has not divulged. Not to anyone. And the guilt is eating her up. Finally admitting to agoraphobia, she agrees to take small steps to overcome it. And she’s helped in this by the frivolous Kate, who proves to have a deep insight into her sister’s psyche.
The novel looks into loneliness too. Kate’s boyfriend, Luke, runs a yoga class for the elderly. The participants become enmeshed into Andy’s life too, and they add poignancy as well as humour.
Martina is too skilful to trade reality for pure happiness but it’s real, and leaves us feeling a fondness for all these empathetic characters.
Reilly truly does possess the talent to dance round a dark subject with a delightful lightness of touch. Steadily successful, she deserves to join the ranks of those who, becoming famous early, have become household names.