Cecelia Ahern brings her amazing wit, gifted storytelling, marvelous writing and Irish heritage to her very touching third book, IF YOU COULD SEE ME NOW.
Readers often will talk about a story that intrigues the mind's eye. In other words, the reader can envision the characters and setting. And this story will remain in the mind's eye of this reviewer for some time, especially the much-loved imaginary character, Ivan.
The story is set in present-day Ireland, in a small town in County Cork that has traffic jams from tourist buses but still serves instant coffee at the local restaurant. There is no local Starbucks. The protagonist, Elizabeth Egan, is in her mid-thirties. At age eleven, when her younger sister Saoirse was born, their mother departs from her daughters and their father for a life of freedom. Elizabeth holds their home together while continuing her schooling. When Saoirse gives birth to Luke, Elizabeth again reassumes a maternal role. This time, she leaves her life in New York City to move back home to Ireland where she owns and runs a design firm.
When six-year-old Luke begins to hum a tune that he learned from a new playmate named Ivan, Elizabeth learns of his imaginary friend. Naturally, she is quite distressed but is reassured to learn that this quirky incident in Luke's life likely will end on its own in a few months. It says so on the Internet. However, Elizabeth's very orderly and organized life is due for some changes. Soon she too begins to hum Ivan's catchy tune. A chair in the office spins for no reason and Elizabeth feels a new presence.
When Elizabeth meets a man named Ivan, she assumes him to be the father of one of Luke's friends, and not Luke's imaginary friend. The two hit it off and soon become fast friends. His presence in her life changes everything. As they talk together about Elizabeth's early life and her dreams, Ivan takes Elizabeth out of her organized routines. He listens to her, and she in turn listens to him. When he tells her "It's the extras that make life," Elizabeth realizes that she missed much of the extras in her life. Ivan encourages the child in her to come forth, and she begins to have fun. With Ivan's help, Elizabeth recaptures some of the childhood she missed and remembers more about her mother. Eventually, she is able to forgive the people who made her grow up too fast.
Elizabeth's work life also changes. When her presentation for an important new design job does not go well, it is Ivan's presence that enables Elizabeth to turn to her assistant Poppy for her ideas. They win the contract for the hotel that is to be built around a tower that had protected the small town from approaching attackers during the Viking Age. Benjamin, the attractive project manager, approaches Elizabeth, hoping they will work together. Both want to make sure that the owner's ideas and Poppy's will still create a hotel that appeals to the tourist and yet feels like it belongs to the community.
Ivan has inspired Elizabeth, and as she understands more about herself, she pushes ahead on a new idea she has for the hotel --- a special room for children. She finishes the project the day the hotel opens. Elizabeth knows she has created her own version of "the land of Ekam Eveileb."
Reviewed by Jennifer McCord on January 22, 2011
If You Could See Me Now