Tuesday, February 12, 2013

The Brightest Star in the Sky by Marian Keyes

I know Marian Keyes books aren’t technically young adult, but I started reading her books (Rachel’s Holiday, Sushi for Beginners, Lucy Sullivan is Getting Married, Last Chance Saloon, and Watermelon) between the ages of 12-15, so I feel like they belong here anyway. The last Keyes book that I read was This Charming Man, which had one of my favorite male characters (the eventual cross-dressing boyfriend of the character Lola Daly) that I’ve found in a book in a while. But This Charming Man came out a few years ago, and I’ve sort of lapsed on keeping up with her newer publications. In the time between, Keyes has had a few more publications, and I’ve been catching up over the last few weeks.

The Brightest Star in the Sky is a multi-character narrative (one of the things that I enjoyed the most about This Charming Man was jumping from one character to the next, wandering through their lives and itching to have all of the individual stories laid out in one go), and all of the characters just happen to live at 66 Star Street in Dublin. Maeve and her husband Mark live in a flat on the first floor, and then there is the cab-driving Lydia who rents a tiny-sized bedroom alongside two Polish men, the aging psychic Jemima and her dog Grudge, and Katie, the successful PR rep who lives at the top of the house. Their stories are slowly woven tightly together by a mysterious narrating spirit who has taken an interest in the residents of 66 Star Street, and is counting down the sixty-one days that the story takes place in.

In every multi-character Marian Keyes book, I always find that I pick a favorite character, and my favorite doesn’t seem to change much from beginning to end (for example, Lola in This Charming Man). But with The Brightest Star in the Sky, the further into the story I got, the more I fell in love with each of the characters, from Lydia to Maeve to Jemima to Kate. One of the things I like about books that follow the story of a handful of characters it that the story never seems to get boring, or slow, or old, because it is constantly being rejuvenated by a new perspective that carries a narrative thread further in its own direction. I wished I could read the four perspectives almost continuously, like a four-column page with them all going together at once. Keyes’ main characters are so nuanced and likeable, and the cast of characters that in turn supports each of their own stories (including Katie’s PR team, Lydia’s three brothers, and Lydia’s two Polish roommates, Jan and Andrei, who at times steal the show) are just as well-written.

The spirit that watches over the house, and, as we find out, has an investment in the people who live there, pieces together their lives through the small details of their conversations and routines and schedules, guiding the reader towards possible conclusions and through devastating and humorous backstory. These separate people whose experiences are compartmentalized by their separate flats are slowly pulled into one another’s orbits, drawn closer and closer together as the book drives towards its startling conclusion. There is also the loosely structured fairy tale that knits the entire book together, referenced only a few times, but in a meaningful enough way that it adds an important layer to an already full story.

As an introduction or starting-off point to Marian Keyes, any of her books is a good one to begin with. There is something so distinctly “Marian Keyes” about her writing, a promise that every book she writes will be a satisfying read. But for the book that reintroduced me to Keyes’ writing after a few years without it, The Brightest Star in the Sky was the perfect story. 

Marian Keyes on The Brightest Star in the Sky

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