EVERY week, 42-year-old Vinnie takes Ellen Woods to her physiotherapy appointment in his taxi. Ellen uses crutches and hides her scarred face.
She always requests that Vinnie drive her, to the taxi company’s amusement, yet the two rarely speak to each other.
Until, that is, Vinnie is crippled with severe chest pain. Conquering her fear of driving, Ellen takes over, and brings Vinnie to hospital after calming him, realising its a panic attack, not his heart.
The ice broken, the two become tentative friends. But it’s complicated.
Ellen is a young doctor reluctant to return to work. The emotional recovery from her car accident is slower than the physical one.
Vinnie’s a single dad, struggling to help his daughter, Kerry, through the rebellious teenage stage. Kerry’s in constant trouble at school, and has difficulty confiding in Vinnie.
That’s tough enough, but Vinnie worries even more about his son, Finn. Aged seven, and vulnerable, he misses his mum so much that he bed-wets.
Vinnie narrates the tale, and his is a gentle voice, as he’s bewildered much of the time, and is always self-effacing.
His friends are constantly referencing his good looks, but he’s not aware of them, and is irritated, rather than flattered, by the constant advances made on him by women, like his flirtatious workmate, Janine.
The book starts slowly, Geraghty taking time to set the scene, but soon our interest is piqued as the tale gains momentum. It’s the characters who hold us, and even the subsidiary ones are well-drawn.
Vinnie’s colleague, the sartorially challenged Kenny, provides some tomfoolery, and Vinnie’s mother adds poignancy, humour, and a sympathetic perspective. She’s gutsy too, and she complains that her knee gives her terrible gyp when she does the zumba.
Ciara Geraghty is a superb writer.
Since her debut, Saving Grace, appeared in 2009, she has produced consistently good, character-driven novels.
There are always interesting themes, and aspects of the story are withheld, and gradually revealed to the reader bit by bit.
I’ve always loved Geraghty’s books, and can’t understand why she’s not better-known. She’s better than any other Irish writer in the genre of women’s fiction. She’s the Irish Jojo Moyes, of Me Before You fame.
Like Moyes, her books are meticulously researched, beautifully written, and infused with warmth, humour and human understanding.
Yet they touch life’s dark side.
In this case Geraghty tackles mental illness, and our attitudes towards it.
And it’s not just Vinnie’s extreme stress that’s examined, though that led to the panic attack, nor his over-reliance on Valium.
We learn, early on, that all was not well with Vinnie’s absent wife. And that the baby blues turned into something a tad more serious.
It’s a subject that’s been covered a lot in fiction, of late, as more and more famous people ‘come out’ and talk about their mental problems. But Geraghty’s take on it, while brave and revealing, contains benevolent understanding, too. That the author can wrap the issue into an unusual and rather beguiling love story, and have us falling for all the characters in the process, is greatly to her credit.
Moyes had published eight novels before she dominated the bestseller lists.
Let’s hope Geraghty’s fifth finds her the fame, and the fortune, that she so richly deserves.