Life Before Us by Roisin Meaney is published with Hachette Ireland. It is the 20th book published by this most-loved of writers. There is a generosity and a brightness that shines from Roisin Meaney in person, and through her writing, making her the go-to author of choice for many and with good reason. Roisin Meaney understands people. She understands human nature and what makes us tick. She recognises the array of emotions that we all experience and she brings these to life through her written word.
The premise of Life Before Us is quite simply delightful. Two people, Alice and George, have separate lives yet there are threads crossing back and forth subtly, and slowly, drawing them closer. We have an expectation, based on the premise, of what the eventual outcome will be but it is the tantalising nature of how their relationship is presented that captures our attention.
Alice is now in her thirties. Having left her home town after school for the bright lights of Dublin, she eventually settled into a job as a dentist’s receptionist. For the past ten years she has been renting but a shift in the homeowners circumstances has forced Alice to rethink her accommodation. With many of her friends now married and with children, Alice is all too aware of her own status and this awareness takes a further blow when she discovers that her boyfriend has been playing her for a fool.
A proposal comes her way from her aunt back home and Alice makes a radical decision. She hands in her notice, packs her bag and heads back west to start over again. Alice’s parents live in Italy and have suggested she join them with the possibility of making a more permanent shift to Italy but Alice is not ready to give up on Ireland just yet. With the help of her aunt and some good fortune she is able to manage for a bit, buying herself a little time to figure out what she really wants from life.
George is a primary school teacher with a big heart. Once married, he has a young daughter Suzi who lives with her mother, with George getting weekend access. Now living back in the family home, his mother is about to remarry. George’s father died some years previously and his mother is ready to start a new stage in her life, which means leaving the town she is familiar with, which also means leaving George on his own. George has never lived alone and soon he finds the silence deafening. He is quite an introverted character with no major social circle but he realises that he cannot remain alone in a house that is clearly too big for him so he takes a risk and decides to rent out a room.
Alice makes tentative steps back into the community she grew up in but things have changed since she left. New businesses have popped up and the friends she once knew have moved on. Her aunt’s assistance is only temporary and Alice knows she needs to find something more sustainable. She thought more permanent employment would be easy to find but she soon discovers that she needs to have a rethink. What would Alice really like to do? What would give her fulfillment and also assist her with her everyday living costs? As ideas spill into her head, that invisible thread is working its way in the background laying the groundwork for a little piece of magic that may just change her life forever.
George is depicted wonderfully. A brilliant Dad to Suzi, a caring teacher, a good son but unfortunately unlucky in love. George still carries a torch for his ex-wife, hoping that someday she might look at him again the way she used to. He shuns aside all other possibilities until he is faced with a few life-changing circumstances and his life takes an unexpected turn.
Life Before Us is a story packed full with warmth and charm. A wistful tale about embracing life and being unafraid to take chances, it has an upbeat glow emanating from it that will leave any reader captivated and uplifted after turning that final page. Roisin Meaney writes authentic characters with real lives that make it very easy to vividly imagine the personalities of all the individuals throughout the novel. While this is ultimately a joyful book, there are also moments of deep sadness, as there is in everyone’s life, again adding to the honesty of Roisin Meaney’s writing.
Life Before Us is that book you have been waiting for. You know the one. That book that embraces you in a warm hug and leaves you feeling optimistic, upbeat and at one with the world. Slip away by yourself, with a cuppa in hand, into the careful hands of this captivating storyteller. I promise you’ll love it!
(c) Mairéad Hearne (Swirl and Thread)
Order your copy online here.