I’ve just finished reading Rachel’s Holiday by Marain Keyes and I was hooked. At the last line, I felt myself mourn its end. No more Rachel! The strange thing is though, if I were to list Rachel’s character traits, logic would say I’d hate her. She’s a drug abuser, she’s selfish and she steals from her friends. Not attractive traits are they? And yet, you’lI feel sympathy for her throughout… now that is masterful storytelling.
The novel begins and Rachel is in a pickle. She’s lost her flat, her boyfriend and her best friend in a matter of months. It all seems so unjust, as if she’s just one of life’s victims. At least, that’s what she wants us to believe. Turns out, this ‘mistaken drug addict’ is exactly that, a drug abuser. Her denial has cast a cotton wool veil over our eyes as she is the one narrating the story.
In a desperate attempt to save their daughter, her parents intervene by sending her to a rehab clinic. Surprisingly, Rachel is quite willing to go to because… rehab is where celebrities go… right?
Wrong. Unlike her imagined rehab, there are no hot-tubs, no full body massages and definitely no Rock ‘n Roll enthusiasts to pass those 6 weeks. Instead, interrogations, fact-facing workshops and heaps of embarrassing revelations are part of the Narcotics Anonymous itinerary. The truth is severe and hard to accept.
And she avoids the truth for most of her stay.
By the end of week four, without warning, she starts to feel emotions that she’d once denied herself. She misses Luke, she feels guilty for how she treated her lifelong friend, but most importantly she feels fear. The healing process has begun.
The novel intertwines her present rehabilitation with her past life in New York. We find out why her boyfriend Luke leaves her, why her childhood best friend disowns her and why she loses each of her jobs. As she faces the truth, we are presented with a truth. In a sense, we go through the rehabilitation journey with her.
One aspect of the novel that makes it such a page-turner is Rachel’s characterisation. Minus the drug-related side affects, Rachel represents one of those girls we would really want to be friends with. Who else would use tears to exude ‘tragic beauty’? Who else would feel better if other people were miserable too? Who else’s mother would outshine her? We can relate to her minor flaws, her jealousy of beautiful women and her struggle with her size 8 feet.
Marian Keyes has mastered making a gritty issue into a heart-warming, optimistic one. The sensitively handled denial is a number of things: funny, unreliable and sad. We see the destruction of Rachel’s – and those around hers- lives and see that this is probably a true portrayal of addiction. But it is not at all a melancholy read. The wit and romance takes the novel into the chick-flick realm, without the predictable boy meets girl scenario. Undoubtably, this novel will make you see the multiple sides to addiction and yearn for another of Marian Keyes’ books.