The Woman Who Stole My Life

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9780141043104: The Woman Who Stole My Life

Ever wish you could trade your life in for a better one? The Woman Who Stole My Life is a story full of wit and charm, from the international bestselling author Marian Keyes 'Name: Stella Sweeney. Height: average. Recent life events: dramatic.' One day, sitting in traffic, married Dublin mum Stella Sweeney attempts a good deed. The resulting car crash changes her life. For she meets a man who wants her telephone number (for the insurance, it turns out). That's okay. She doesn't really like him much anyway (his Range Rover totally banjaxed her car). But this chance meeting sparks a chain of events which will take Stella thousands of miles from her old life, turning an ordinary woman into a superstar, and, along the way, wrenching her whole family apart. Is this all because of one ill-advised act of goodwill? Was meeting Mr Range Rover destiny or karma? Should she be grateful or hopping mad? For the first time real, honest-to-goodness happiness is just within her reach. But is Stella Sweeney, Dublin housewife, ready to grasp it? 'When it comes to writing page-turners that put a smile on your face and make you think, Keyes is in a class of her own' Daily Express 'Gloriously funny' The Sunday Times 'Keyes manages to have you alternately blubbing and belly-laughing to the final page' Company 'Not only is it a great story with funny, loveable characters, it made me laugh out loud' Stylist 'One of those rare books that will swallow up your day without realising it. Romantic and uplifting it won't fail to put a smile on your face. Marian Keyes is back to her best' The Daily Express 'A warm and hilarious page turner' Good Housekeeping 'Funny but poignant' Marie Claire 'A smart new drama from the awesome Marian Keyes' Heat 'Full of twists and turns, with warmth and humour on every page, it doesn't disappoint' Closer 'A modern fairy tale, it's full of Keyes's self-deprecating wit' The Sunday Mirror

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About the Author:

Marian Keyes' international bestselling novels include Rachel's Holiday, Last Chance Saloon, Sushi for Beginners, Angels, The Other Side of the Story, Anybody Out There, This Charming Man, The Brightest Star in the Sky, The Mystery of Mercy Close and The Woman Who Stole My Life. Three collections of her journalism, Under the Duvet, Further Under the Duvet and Making It Up As I Go Along, are also available from Penguin. Marian lives in Dublin with her husband.

Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

***This excerpt is from an advance uncorrected proof***

Copyright © 2015 Marian Keyes

Friday, 30 May

14:49
You know, if you glanced up at my window right now, you’d think to yourself, “Look at that woman. Look at the diligent way she’s sitting upright at her desk. Look at the assiduous way her hands are poised over her keyboard. She’s obviously working very hard . . . hold on . . . is that Stella Sweeney?! Back in Ireland? Writing a new book?! I’d heard she was all washed up!”

Yes, I am Stella Sweeney. Yes, I am (much to my disappointment, but we won’t get into it now) back in Ireland. Yes, I am writing a new book. Yes, I am all washed up.

But I won’t be all washed up for long. No indeed. Because I’m working. You only have to look at me here at my desk! Yes, I’m working.

. . . Except I’m not. Looking like you’re working isn’t quite the same thing as actually working. I haven’t typed a single word. I can think of nothing to say.

A small smile plays about my lips, though. Just in case you’re looking in. Being in the public eye does that to a person. You have to look smiley and act nice all the time, or else people will say, “The fame went to her head. And it’s not like she was any good in the first place.”

I’ll have to get curtains, I decide. I won’t be able to sustain this smiling business. Already my face is hurting and I’ve only been sitting here for fifteen minutes. Twelve, actually. How slow the time is going!

I type one word. “Ass.” It doesn’t further my case, but it feels nice to write something.

“Begin at the beginning,” Phyllis had told me, that terrible day in her office in New York, a few months ago. “Do an introduction. Remind people of who you are.”

“Have they forgotten already?”

“Sure.”

I’d never liked Phyllis—she was a terrifying little bulldog of a creature. But I wasn’t supposed to like her—she was my agent, not my friend.

The first time I’d met her she’d waved my book in the air and said, “We could go a long ways with this. Drop ten pounds and you’ve got yourself an agent.”

I’d cut out the carbs and dropped five of the stipulated ten pounds, then there was a sit-down where she was persuaded to settle for seven pounds and me wearing Spanx whenever I was on TV.

And Phyllis was right: we did go a long way with that book. A long way up, then a long way sideways, then a long way off the map. So far off the map that I’m sitting here at a desk in my small house in the Dublin suburb of Ferrytown, which I thought I’d escaped forever, trying to write another book.

Okay, I’ll write my introduction.

Name: Stella Sweeney.

Age: forty-one and a quarter.

Height: average.

Hair: long, curly and blonde-ish.

Recent life events: dramatic.

 

No, that won’t do; it’s too bare. It needs to be more chatty, more lyrical. I’ll try again.

Hello, there! Stella Sweeney here. Slim, thirty-eight-year-old Stella Sweeney. I know you need no reminding of who I am but, just in case, I wrote the international best-selling inspirational book One Blink at a Time. I was on talk shows and everything. They worked me to the bone on several book tours that took in thirty-four US cities (if you count Minneapolis–St. Paul as two places). I flew in a private plane (once). Everything was lovely I, absolutely lovely, except for the bits that were horrible. Living the dream, I was! Except for when I wasn’t . . . But the wheel of fate has turned again and I find myself in very different, more humbling circumstances. Adjusting to the latest twist my life has taken has been painful but ultimately rewarding. Inspired by my new wisdom, not to mention the fact that I’m skint.

No, bad idea to mention the skintness, I’d better take that out . . . I hit the delete key until all mention of money has disappeared, then start typing again.

Inspired by my new wisdom, I’m trying to write a new book. I’ve no idea what it’s about but I’m hoping if I throw enough words onto a screen, I’ll be able to cobble something together. Something even more inspirational than One Blink at a Time!

That’s grand. That’ll do. Okay, maybe that second-last sentence needs to be tidied up, but, fundamentally, I’m out of the traps. Fair play to me. As a reward, I’ll just take a quick look on Twitter . . .

. . . Amazing how you can lose three hours just like that. I emerge from my Twitter hole, dazed to find myself still at my desk, still in my tiny “office” (i.e. spare bedroom) in my old house in Ferrytown. In Twitterland we were having a great old chat about summer having finally arrived. Every time it seemed like the discussion might be about to taper off, someone new came in and reignited the whole thing. We discussed fake tan, cos lettuce, shameful feet . . . It was fecking fantastic. FANTASTIC!

I’m feeling great! I remember reading somewhere that the chemicals produced in the brain by a lengthy Twitter session are similar to those produced by cocaine.

Abruptly my bubble pops and I’m faced with the fairy-dust-free facts: I wrote ten sentences today. That’s not enough.

I will work now. I will, I will, I will. If I don’t I’ll have to punish myself by disabling the Internet on this computer . . .

. . . Is that Jeffrey I hear?

It is! In he comes, slamming the front door and throwing his wretched yoga mat onto the hall floor. I can sense every move that yoga mat makes. I’m always aware of it, the way you are when you hate something. It hates me too. It’s like we’re in a battle over ownership of Jeffrey.

I jump up to say hello even though Jeffrey hates me almost as much as his yoga mat does. He’s hated me for ages now. About five years, give or take, basically since the moment he hit thirteen.

I’d thought it was girls who were meant to be nightmare teenagers and that boys simply went mute for the duration. But Betsy wasn’t bad at all and Jeffrey has been full of . . . well . . . angst. In fairness, by dint of having me as his mother, he’s had a roller coaster of a time of it, so much so that when he was fifteen he asked to be put up for adoption.

However, I’m delighted that I can stop pretending to work for a little while, and I run down the stairs. “Sweetheart!” I try to act like the hostility between us doesn’t exist.

There he is, six foot tall, as thin as a pipe-cleaner and with an Adam’s apple as big as a muffin. He looks exactly like his father did at that age.

I sense extra animosity from him today.

“What?” I ask.

Without looking at me he says, “Get your hair cut.”

“Why?”

“Just do. You’re too old to have it that long.”

“What’s going on?”

“From the back you look . . . different.”

I coax the story out of him. It transpires that this morning, he was “down the town” with one of his yoga friends. Outside the Pound Shop the friend had spotted me from the rear and made admiring noises and Jeffrey had said, from bloodless lips, “That’s my mom. She’s forty-one and a quarter.”

I deduce that both of them were badly shaken by the experience.

Maybe I should be flattered, but the thing is I know I’m not too bad from the back. The front, however, is not so good. I’m that strange shape where any weight I put on goes straight to my stomach. Even as a teenager, when everyone else was worried sick about the size of their ass and the width of their thighs, I’d kept an anxious eye on my mid-section. I knew it had the potential to go rogue and my life has been one long battle to contain it.

Jeffrey swings a shopping bag of peppers at me, with what can only be called aggression. (“He menaced me with capsicums, your Honor.”) I sigh inwardly. I know what’s coming. He wants to cook. Again. This is a fairly new departure and, against all evidence to the contrary, he thinks he’s brilliant at it. As he searches for his niche in life, he combines risibly mismatched ingredients and makes me eat the results. Rabbit and mango stew, that’s what we had last night.

“I’m cooking dinner.” He dead-eyes me as he waits for me to cry.

“Grand,” I say, brightly.

That means we’ll get fed around midnight. Just as well I have a stash of Jaffa Cakes in my bedroom, so big it almost covers an entire wall. 


19:41
I tiptoe into the kitchen, to find Jeffrey staring motionless at a tin of pineapple, as if it was a chessboard and he was a Grand Master, planning his next move.

“Jeffrey . . .”

Tonelessly, he says, “I’m concentrating. Or rather, I was.”

“Do I have time to visit Mum and Dad before dinner?” See what I did there? I didn’t just say, “What time will I be getting fed?” I made it not about me, but about his grandparents, which hopefully will soften his angry heart.

“I don’t know.”

“I’m just going out for an hour.”

“Dinner will be ready by then.”

It won’t be. He’s keeping me trapped. I’ll have to confront this passive-aggressive warfare at some stage, but I’m feeling so defeated by my pointless day and my pointless life that, right now, I’m not able.

“Okay . . .”

“Please don’t come in here while I’m working.”

I go back upstairs and wish I could tweet “#Working #MyHole” but some of his friends follow me on Twitter. Besides, any time I send a tweet, it reminds people that I’m nobody now and that it’s time to unfollow me. That is a true measurable fact which I sometimes test, just in case I’m not feeling like enough of a loser.

In fairness, I was never Lady Gaga with her millions and millions of followers, but, in my own small way, I was once a Twitter presence.

Denied an outlet for my gloom, I remove a brick from my Jaffa Cake wall and lie on my bed and eat many of the little round discs of chocolate-and-orange happiness. So many that I can’t tell you because I made a deliberate decision to not count. Plenty, though. Rest assured of that.

Tomorrow will be different, I tell myself. Tomorrow will have to be different. There will be lots of writing and lots of productivity and no Jaffa Cakes. I will not be a woman who lies on her bed, her chest covered with spongy crumbs.

An hour and a half later, still a dinner-free woman, I hear a car door slam and feel someone hurrying up our little path. In this cardboard house, you can not just hear, but you can feel everything that happens within a fifty-meter radius.

“Dad’s here.” There is alarm in Jeffrey’s voice. “He looks a bit mental.”

The doorbell begins to ring frantically. I hurry down the stairs and open the door and there is Ryan. Jeffrey is right: he does look a bit mental.

Ryan pushes past me into the hall and, with zeal that borders on the manic, says, “Stella, Jeffrey, I’ve got some fantastic news!”

Let me tell you about my ex-husband, Ryan. He might put things differently, which he’s welcome to do, but as this is my story, you’re getting my version.

We got together when I was nineteen and he was twenty-one and he had notions about being an artist. Because he was very good at drawing dogs and because I knew nothing about art, I thought he was highly talented. He was accepted into art college where, to our mutual dismay, he showed no signs of being the breakout star of his generation. We used to have long talks, late into the night, where he’d tell me all the different ways his tutors were cretins and I’d stroke his hands and agree with him.

After four years he graduated with a mediocre degree and began painting for a living. But no one bought his canvases, so he decided that painting was over. He played around with different media—film, graffiti, dead budgies in formaldehyde—but a year passed and nothing took off. Ultimately a pragmatic man, Ryan faced facts: he didn’t like being perpetually penniless. He wasn’t cut out for this starving-in-a-garret business that seems to be the stock-in-trade of most artists.
Besides, he had acquired a wife (me) and a young daughter, Betsy. He needed to get a job. But not just any old job. After all, he was, despite everything, an artist.

Around this time, my dad’s glamorous sister, Auntie Jeanette, came into a few quid and decided to spend it on something she’d coveted since she was a little girl—a beautiful bathroom. She wanted something—said with an airy wave of her hand—“fabulous.” Jeanette’s poor husband, Uncle Peter, who had spent the previous twenty years desperately trying to provide the glamour that Jeanette so clearly craved, asked, “What sort of fabulous?” But Jeanette couldn’t actually say. “. . . Just, you know, fabulous.”

Peter (he later admitted this to my dad) had a dreadful moment when he thought he might start sobbing and never stop, then he was saved from such humiliation by a brainwave. “Why don’t we ask Stella to ask Ryan?” he said. “He’s artistic.”

Ryan was mortified to be consulted on such a mundane project and he told me to tell Auntie Jeanette that she could feck off, that he was an artist and that artists didn’t “bother their barney” on the placement of wash-hand basins. But I hate confrontation and I was afraid of causing a family rift, so I couched Ryan’s refusal in vaguer terms. So vague that an armload of bathroom brochures were dropped off for Ryan’s perusal.

They sat on our small kitchen table for over a week. Now and again I’d pick one up and say, “God, that’s gorgeous,” and, “Would you look at that? So imaginative.”

You see, I was keeping our little family afloat by working as a beautician, and I’d have been very grateful if Ryan had started bringing in some money. But Ryan refused to take the bait. Until one night he began to leaf through the pages and suddenly he was engaged. He picked up a pencil and some graph paper and within no time he was applying himself with vigor. “She wants fabulous,” he muttered. “I’ll give her fabulous.”

Over the following days and weeks he labored on layout, he spent hours scouring Buy and Sell (these were pre-eBay days) and he jumped out of bed in the middle of the night, his artistic head fizzing with artistic ideas.

News of Ryan’s diligence began to spread through my family and people were impressed. My dad, who had never been keen on Ryan, reluctantly began to revise his opinion. He stopped saying, “Ryan Sweeney an artist? Piss-artist, more like!”

The result—and everyone was agreed on this, even Dad, a skeptical, working-class man—was indeed fabulous: Ryan had created a mini Studio 54. As he’d been born in Dublin in 1971, he’d never had the honor of visiting the iconic nightclub, so he had to base his design on photos and anecdotal evidence. He even wrote to Bianca Jagger. (She didn’t reply but, still, it shows the lengths he was prepared to go to.)

As soon as you put a foot into the bathroom, the floor lit up and Donna Summer’s “Love to Love You, Baby” began to play softly. Natural light was banished and replaced with an ambient gold glow. The cabinets—and there were plenty of them because Auntie Jeanette had a lot of stuff—were coated with glitter. Andy Warhol’s Marilyn was recreated in eight thousand tiny mosaic tiles and covered an entire wall. The bath was egg-shaped and black. The toilet was housed off in an adorable little black lacquer cubicle. The makeup station had enough theatrical-style lightbulbs to power the whole of Ferrytown (Jeanette had stipulated “brutal” lighting; she was proud of her skill in blending foundations and concealer but she couldn’t do it in poor visibility).<...

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Book Description Penguin Books Ltd, United Kingdom, 2015. Paperback. Book Condition: New. Language: English . Brand New Book. Ever wish you could trade your life in for a better one? The Woman Who Stole My Life is a story full of wit and charm, from the international bestselling author Marian Keyes Name: Stella Sweeney. Height: average. Recent life events: dramatic. One day, sitting in traffic, married Dublin mum Stella Sweeney attempts a good deed. The resulting car crash changes her life. For she meets a man who wants her telephone number (for the insurance, it turns out). That s okay. She doesn t really like him much anyway (his Range Rover totally banjaxed her car). But this chance meeting sparks a chain of events which will take Stella thousands of miles from her old life, turning an ordinary woman into a superstar, and, along the way, wrenching her whole family apart. Is this all because of one ill-advised act of goodwill? Was meeting Mr Range Rover destiny or karma? Should she be grateful or hopping mad? For the first time real, honest-to-goodness happiness is just within her reach. But is Stella Sweeney, Dublin housewife, ready to grasp it? When it comes to writing page-turners that put a smile on your face and make you think, Keyes is in a class of her own Daily Express Gloriously funny The Sunday Times Keyes manages to have you alternately blubbing and belly-laughing to the final page Company Not only is it a great story with funny, loveable characters, it made me laugh out loud Stylist One of those rare books that will swallow up your day without realising it. Romantic and uplifting it won t fail to put a smile on your face. Marian Keyes is back to her best The Daily Express A warm and hilarious page turner Good Housekeeping Funny but poignant Marie Claire A smart new drama from the awesome Marian Keyes Heat Full of twists and turns, with warmth and humour on every page, it doesn t disappoint Closer A modern fairy tale, it s full of Keyes s self-deprecating wit The Sunday Mirror. Bookseller Inventory # APG9780141043104

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Book Description Penguin Books Ltd, United Kingdom, 2015. Paperback. Book Condition: New. Language: English . Brand New Book. Ever wish you could trade your life in for a better one? The Woman Who Stole My Life is a story full of wit and charm, from the international bestselling author Marian Keyes Name: Stella Sweeney. Height: average. Recent life events: dramatic. One day, sitting in traffic, married Dublin mum Stella Sweeney attempts a good deed. The resulting car crash changes her life. For she meets a man who wants her telephone number (for the insurance, it turns out). That s okay. She doesn t really like him much anyway (his Range Rover totally banjaxed her car). But this chance meeting sparks a chain of events which will take Stella thousands of miles from her old life, turning an ordinary woman into a superstar, and, along the way, wrenching her whole family apart. Is this all because of one ill-advised act of goodwill? Was meeting Mr Range Rover destiny or karma? Should she be grateful or hopping mad? For the first time real, honest-to-goodness happiness is just within her reach. But is Stella Sweeney, Dublin housewife, ready to grasp it? When it comes to writing page-turners that put a smile on your face and make you think, Keyes is in a class of her own Daily Express Gloriously funny The Sunday Times Keyes manages to have you alternately blubbing and belly-laughing to the final page Company Not only is it a great story with funny, loveable characters, it made me laugh out loud Stylist One of those rare books that will swallow up your day without realising it. Romantic and uplifting it won t fail to put a smile on your face. Marian Keyes is back to her best The Daily Express A warm and hilarious page turner Good Housekeeping Funny but poignant Marie Claire A smart new drama from the awesome Marian Keyes Heat Full of twists and turns, with warmth and humour on every page, it doesn t disappoint Closer A modern fairy tale, it s full of Keyes s self-deprecating wit The Sunday Mirror. Bookseller Inventory # APG9780141043104

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Book Description Penguin Books Ltd. Paperback. Book Condition: new. BRAND NEW, The Woman Who Stole My Life, Marian Keyes, International best-selling author Marian Keyes is bringing you another masterfully told story full of wit and charm. 'Name: Stella Sweeney. Height: average. Recent life events: dramatic.' One day, sitting in traffic, married Dublin mum Stella Sweeney attempts a good deed. The resulting car crash changes her life. For she meets a man who wants her telephone number (for the insurance, it turns out). That's okay. She doesn't really like him much anyway (his Range Rover totally banjaxed her car). But in this meeting is born the seed of something which will take Stella thousands of miles from her old life, turning an ordinary woman into a superstar, and, along the way, wrenching her whole family apart. Is this all because of one ill-advised act of goodwill? Was meeting Mr Range Rover destiny or karma? Should she be grateful or hopping mad? For the first time real, honest-to-goodness happiness is just within her reach. But is Stella Sweeney, Dublin housewife, ready to grasp it? Marian's stunning new novel The Woman Who Stole My Life is about losing the life you had and finding a better one. "When it comes to writing page-turners that put a smile on your face and make you think, Keyes is in a class of her own." (Daily Express). "Gloriously funny." (The Sunday Times). "Keyes manages to have you alternately blubbing and belly-laughing to the final page." (Company). "Not only is it a great story with funny, loveable characters, it made me laugh out loud." (Stylist). "One of those rare books that will swallow up your day without realising it. Romantic and uplifting it won't fail to put a smile on your face. Marian Keyes is back to her best." (The Daily Express). "A warm and hilarious page turner." (Good Housekeeping). "Funny but poignant." (Marie Claire). "A smart new drama from the awesome Marian Keyes." (Heat). "Full of twists and turns, with warmth and humour on every page, it doesn't disappoint." (Closer). "A modern fairy tale, it's full of Keyes' self-deprecating wit." (The Sunday Mirror). Bookseller Inventory # B9780141043104

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