You could say that recruitment officer Christine Rose has an unfortunate problem. You could even surmise that the grim reaper is hanging over her shoulder; death is following her around and she can’t do anything about it. That is until intercepting her second suicide attempt in as many days. A suitably handsome man is gearing up to throw himself of the Ha’penny Bridge (no mean feat) and having failed to save someone else the day before, our intrepid angel of death decides to leap forward and rescue him using the power of what she has learned from self-help books. They make a deal – if she convinces him that life is worth living if only he puts his mind to it in the two weeks before his 35th birthday he will forgo his plan to end his life.
It’s not the most cheerful of premises for a women’s lit novel. And, as is becoming the usual with any Cecelia Ahern book, the premise is much more interesting than the story itself. The heroine comes complete with a raging newly ex-husband, a trio of meddling family members, her own (failing) business and a meek friend who has devoted her life to looking after her ailing mother and trying to keep her late father’s bookshop above water. When she happens upon Adam, the troubled soul intent on ending it all, she isn’t in the healthiest mindset herself. But she’s determined to put her expertise at following silly advice to work, and off they go on Operation Save Adam.
Can you guess where this is going? Adam, when he has returned to his hotel room with Christine to take stock, is revealed to be quite the heartthrob. Oh, and he’s an heir to a fortune. Trouble is he’s madly in love with his girlfriend. But that’s ok; she cheated on him with his best friend! Christine has recently split with her boring, mentally stable husband and is trying to figure it all out. And tellingly, the book is called How to Fall in Love. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist…
I’m willing to contemplate forgiving Ahern for continuously spinning out this type of tale because she seems like a really sweet individual, but this offering has so many faults I’m not sure if I can this time. The characters are one dimensional and poorly drawn, not to mention brazenly stereotypical. The handling of mental health issues are at times too fickle and broad and although it’s a gallant effort to remove stigma from these conditions most of the effort is spent on Christine’s attraction to damaged, frequently shirtless Adam.
It reads like a never-ending short story from a creative writing class, never going deeper than meaningful looks and transparent misunderstandings. Her books are clearly popular, not one but two have been adapted for the big screen, but Ahern’s talent lies more in ideas than writing. One for the long wait at an airport perhaps, where you can freely leave it behind for someone else to pass the time with.
– Aoife B. Burke
First Published in The Tuam Herald on 17.04.14