Last Chance Saloon
I’ve been waiting to read Last Chance Saloon for over a year now. Last summer I discovered Marian Keyes, and I lapped up her three books like cream. Unfortunately, then I had to wait and wait and wait for this one to cross the sea. But finally it’s here, her new book, and I have to say I was not disappointed. It was worth the wait.
Katherine, Tara, and Fintan have been friends for a long time. They grew up in the small Irish village of Knockavoy, and left it to come to London about twelve years ago. In the interim only one of them has found true love. Fintan met his boyfriend, Sandro, several years ago, and they have a wonderful relationship. Katherine and Tara have not been so lucky.
Tara is stuck in a going-nowhere rut with the nasty, emotionally abusive Thomas. Her friends hate him, but she defends his stinginess as prudence and his constant nagging about her weight as his way of caring about her. In truth she is terrified of losing him. She knows that she is a failure if she doesn’t have a man.
Katherine is the Ice Queen. She is successful, financially stable, and compulsively neat. She avoids relationships because she has found that all men seem to want from her is the chase. When she has been caught, she has been unceremoniously thrown back every time. So she has cultivated a cold demeanor to hide a raging neediness.
All three of them are trudging along, content to keep going in the same direction, never tempted to peek above the edges of their rut, when Fintan gets sick. Then with his new perspective of the value of life, he orders Katherine and Tara to make the very changes that are most frightening for them.
This book is a bit of a departure from Keyes’s previous books. Her first three books had just one heroine, and they were all written in the first person perspective. This book has a number of main characters and is told in the third person. This one, for me, was a little less effective for those reasons. First of all, there is a fair amount of head-hopping which was a little distracting. And also, with so many characters, there was less of the intimacy of Lucy Sullivan is Getting Married or Rachel’s Holiday. In those two books the heroines have major problems to face and overcome, and since you are in their heads all of the time you get to see the problems and resolutions up close and personal. In Last Chance Saloon because there are so many characters, you spend less time with each of them and the experience is not so intense.
But I still really liked this book. It was funny and poignant. Keyes absolutely nails the problems of the single woman and the dating scene. The process of breaking up is described so well that I had flashbacks to my own dating life and the horrors that I’ve seen my girlfriends go through.
It’s also interesting to see how all of them, Katherine, Fintan, and Tara, must face down their fears of being in the Last Chance Saloon. All of them are afraid of what will happen if the make the changes necessary to their survival, and their fears and experiences are mirrored very nicely. I thought their characterization was done very well-they were all very human and yet very likable. The book started a little slowly, but about halfway through I was hooked and hooked completely. The last half went by very quickly.
This was not my favorite book by Marian Keyes – that would be Lucy Sullivan Is getting Married – but it was very good, nonetheless. If you like women’s fiction, and would like a book that will make you laugh, cry, cringe, and smile, I’d recommend you get a copy of Last Chance Saloon.