Desert Isle Keeper
Marian Keyes’s Rachel’s Holiday is a warmly-recommended story about addiction, denial, and the need for acceptance. Rachel Walsh is a 27- year-old Irishwoman who leads a high-flying New York party girl’s life. She strives to be chic and groovy and wants nothing more than to be accepted by those she considers fashionable. But what she actually manages to be is in denial. She has a significant substance abuse problem, according to her nearest and dearest. In fact, they go as far as to say she’s an addict. But she disagrees very firmly. Shouldn’t she be thinner if she was an addict? And her drug use and drinking is purely recreational anyway. It’s not like it does anyone any harm, is it?
But it does. Her boyfriend Luke, her family, and her friends suffer a great deal. She lies and steals, acts unpredictably and unkindly, forgets her promises, and does almost anything to get her next dose of unhealthy happiness, as addicts are wont to do. Finally she is persuaded to return to Ireland to go to a clinic. She thinks of jacuzzis and Betty Ford, gyms and celebrities, and decides to treat it as a holiday. After all, she hasn’t got a problem with drugs. But once she gets to the clinic it turns out to be no vacation. She has to come to grips with some very painful realizations about herself.
The unchic Luke, whom Rachel used to consider a bit ridiculous, turns out to be real hero material as he confronts Rachel about her problems and forces her to see herself. Learning to take responsibility for her actions hurts Rachel a lot, and she is shattered when she realizes her inability to appreciate the best things in her life has made her lose them. Such as Luke.
It is not an easy job to write a recovery story that is funny and sad, poignant and uplifting, heart-breaking and hilarious, all at the same time, but Marian Keyes did that with Rachel’s Holiday. The portrayal of addiction describes the evil consequences for Rachel’s relationships but is optimistic about her chances of recovery, and the overall tone is lightened by some delightful humor and romance. I hated Rachel when she was at her bitchiest, hurt for her when she was at her most vulnerable and rooted for her when she lifted herself up.
Rachel’s sister Claire is the heroine of Watermelon, but it is not necessary to have read Watermelon in order to understand Rachel’s Holiday. I was halfway through the book before I even realized it. And I hardly realized it was 5 a.m. when I finished the book – after one sitting. It was worth every weary minute at work the following day.