If This is Paradise, I Want My Money Back
If you have ever dreamed of revenge on that man who did you wrong, then you will find plenty to enjoy with this chick lit story from across the pond. While first published in 2009 in the United Kingdom, American readers now have the opportunity to enjoy the mayhem that is Charlotte.
After Charlotte Grey hears the rumors that her boyfriend James Kane has been cheating on her, she rushes home to confront him. Devastated with his admission that he no longer loves her and at his request she move out, she jumps in her car, intent only on getting away from the scene of her heartbreak. Not only is she losing her boyfriend and her home, but also her job, since her ex’s new lover is a client of her firm. Her anguish causes her to drive erratically, and after pulling out to pass a car she is involved in a head on collision, putting her in the hospital with a skull fracture and coma. Not that this is a wholly bad thing. She figures she must be on some great drugs because everything is so nice and serene.
Well, except when her mother, sister Kate and best friend Fiona visit. Her mother puts on rat pack Vegas style music in the guise of it being Charlotte’s favorite. Her sister Kate confides all her worries about getting pregnant and her best friend Fiona goes on and on about her Internet dating prospects. Talk, talk, talk, you would think that someone told these people that hearing is the last to go, and by talking they can pull Charlotte back. If Charlotte didn’t know better, she would think they are having some type of contest over who can get her to open her eyes. She just wants to enjoy her little break from living. But when James visits and she overhears him talking to the bimbo, cooing that he LOVES her, it agitates Charlotte, if you call a cardiac arrest agitating. Next thing you know, she’s hearing her deceased father’s voice.
Normally, this would be a good thing, because she has missed him so. However he died ten years ago, so this must mean that she is. . . dead. Seeing only blurry objects and a lot of white, she hesitantly asks where she is. Being told that she is in an assessment area doesn’t bring her any relief because she fears they will assess her miserable life and decide she belongs way below. Still, her dad reassures her and she spends what seems like eternity having nice long chats with him, pouring out her grievances against her lying, cheating ex-boyfriend and meeting old relatives, most of whom had died before her birth. Heaven is sure not very exciting. There is a woman that bears a resemblance to the decreased Queen Mother, but no Princess Di or anyone that looks younger than eighty. When her dad asks if she is interested in doing a little work, she is agreeable but keeps her expectations low, thinking it will have something to do with helping the elderly. However, she is beyond excited to discover she will be doing angelic work. . . until she finds out that her subject is James.
Her inability to move objects is disappointing since she would love to cause James bodily harm but finding out that he can hear her voice brings some compensation. And she is not shy about using it, causing him all sorts of havoc. She gave up her dreams for this man and he is going to pay. If only her mother, Kate, and Fiona could hear her also because they are in desperate need of angelic intervention. Still, Charlotte is a quick study in angel school, so she knows how to invade dreams to make her point.
Ms. Carroll is a new-to-me author, and I really enjoyed her clever humor. Her references to modern culture provide an easy way for readers to identify with the characters, although the mention of a now deceased singer dates the story.
While getting even with an ex may be many women’s fantasy, I did get a little tired of Charlotte’s retaliation and thought that her moment of truth occurred somewhat tardily. I appreciated more her interference in Kate and Fiona’s lives. There is a scene reminiscent of Dickens’ A Christmas Carol that is superbly funny. And Charlotte’s visits to her mother are poignant in their simplicity. Although the book kept me turning the pages, I did still feel that it was overly long. This and Charlotte’s delayed realization is the reason for the B- grade instead of a B. Still, this often lighthearted novel about the cathartic wrath of a woman scorned hits a home run on the difficulties of relationships and the loving connection between family and friends. The ending of If This is Paradise, I Want My Money Back is not really a surprise, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.