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Sushi for Beginners

Review

Sushi for Beginners

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Three women on the verge of a nervous breakdown are profiled in
SUSHI FOR BEGINNERS, a witty but inevitably predictable romantic
comedy. Touching on heavy issues, from homelessness to mental
illness, the novel nevertheless remains light enough to be devoured
in one sitting.

Lisa is an in-demand London magazine editor with a fabulous
lifestyle and extravagant wardrobe. When her expected job promotion
sends her from London to the backwater of Dublin to launch a
brand-new young women's magazine, she alternates between belittling
the hopelessly backward Irish and grimly determining to make her
magazine a success. About to undergo messy divorce proceedings,
Lisa turns her romantic attentions to her rakish boss, Jack
Devine.

Ashling is Lisa's second-in-command. Nicknamed "Little Miss Fixit"
by Jack Devine, she is hopelessly practical and always ready to
help a co-worker by producing everything from bandages to hairspray
as if by magic. When her boyfriend and her best friend
simultaneously betray her, she is forced to reexamine her role as
willing victim.

Clodagh is a working woman, too --- but not in the glamorous world
of magazine publishing. She toils at home, caring for her two
children and perpetually redecorating rooms in her home. She is
married to a handsome, successful man, and she should be more than
satisfied. So why does she find herself recoiling from her perfect
life?

The three women's intersecting stories, which culminate when all
three face life-shattering revelations, could be nothing more than
tired stereotypes. But, as in most of Marian Keyes's novels,
history --- especially family history --- intercedes, and each
character ultimately gains enough depth to make her truly human.
Ashling, for example, can trace both her penchant for solving
problems and her superstitious habits to her own mother's
depression when Ashling was a child. Lisa's ambition and fear of
failure can be traced to her working-class roots: "She was a
working-class girl who'd spent her life trying to be something
else," she reflects. "And despite years devoted to the grueling
treadmill of networking, sucking up, doing down, always paying
attention, never relaxing, she'd been brought inexorably back to
where she started." Although SUSHI FOR BEGINNERS doesn't focus on
issues of alcoholism, drug abuse, and violence that Marian Keyes
has touched upon in other novels, its serious examination of family
roots and their impact on women's working lives gives this novel a
harder edge than many so-called "chick-lit" confections.

That's not to say that SUSHI FOR BEGINNERS is a downer --- far from
it. It's ultimately a satisfying, if highly predictable, romantic
comedy with not one but two happy endings. The romance is light,
the situations --- particularly the lengths to which Lisa goes to
make her magazine a success --- are a riot, and the dialogue is
clever. There are worse things in the world than a good beach read,
and if SUSHI FOR BEGINNERS can make you stop and think every so
often, so much the better.

Reviewed by Norah Piehl on January 23, 2011

Sushi for Beginners
by Marian Keyes

  • Publication Date: June 1, 2003
  • Genres: Fiction
  • Hardcover: 432 pages
  • Publisher: William Morrow
  • ISBN-10: 0060520507
  • ISBN-13: 9780060520502