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19 June 2013

Review: 'Things We Never Say' by Sheila O'Flanagan (2013)

Abbey Andersen is the last person to go looking for change. Yes, it's tough that she barely sees her mother these days - but in San Francisco she has great friends, a steady relationship and a job she enjoys. When Abbey is contacted by Irish lawyer Ryan Gilligan she learns in an instant everything she believed about her roots is a lie. She must travel to Dublin to find out more - but she's scarcely off the plane when she's plunged into a new crisis. One that will change everything not just for Abbey but for the family in Ireland who had no idea that she even existed. Now Abbey has to make a choice that will affect everyone she knows. How can she be sure she makes the right one? And can life ever be quite the same again?
Sheila O’Flanagan is one of the biggest names within the world of chick lit with about fifteen best-selling novels to her name. As a lover of anything chick lit, I also have a couple of her books somewhere on my shelves and every time I see a new title in a book shop, it attracts my attention. But somehow I’ve never actually managed to pick up one of Sheila O’Flanagan’s works and sit down to read it. So, when I received a review copy from Headline (thank you!) of her new novel, ‘Things We Never Say’, I knew I would finally take the time to explore one of her novels myself.

‘Things We Never Say’ focuses on two places in the world: Ireland and California. In Ireland, we find the Fitzpatrick family, which is devastated after the sudden death of patriarch Fred. His children Donald, Gareth and Suzanne are not necessarily devastated by the fact that their father is no longer amongst them; it is his will that has left them most distressed. The reason for this can be found at the other side of the world in San Francisco. Abbey Andersen has a good life: she loves her job as a nail technician, she has a nice apartment with her boyfriend whom she loves very much, and she has great friends to support her. However, when her boyfriend suddenly decides to leave her behind with several debts, Abbey’s life appears to not be so great anymore. When out of the blue an Irish investigator shows up to tell Abbey her family history also isn’t exactly what she thinks it is, Abbey is forced to make some decisions that will not only affect her, but also those around her.

I really liked the fact that this novel focused on two separate storylines that later on become entwined. From the first few pages I already adored Abbey; she’s a lovely character and I was really rooting for her throughout the book. She really cares about the people around her and tries to do what’s best for everyone, not just herself, in any kind of situation. Next to Abbey’s storyline, there’s the feuding Fitzpatrick family. It took me a longer time to get used to these characters. They all have their own secrets and are obsessed with money and particularly their father’s will. I liked discovering and reading about Gareth, Donald, Suzanne and their families, even though most of them weren’t really easily likeable characters. I thought it was great how Sheila O’Flanagan managed to bring all of these diverse characters with their own individual personalities together.

The novel starts with a fascinating chapter set half a century ago, during the Magdalene Laundry era. These Magdalene Laundries were mainly Catholic-run facilities in Ireland for ‘fallen’ women, for example prostitutes or pregnant girls and women who had been left behind by their families. I thought this really added a historical layer to the novel which I personally loved. I have to say I thought the main part of the novel took up too many pages; the story seemed a bit slow at times, and I would have preferred fewer pages or perhaps a more extensive romantic storyline for Abbey. Overall, ‘Things We Never Say’ is an intriguing and enjoyable novel all about family dynamics, which has convinced me to definitely pick up another Sheila O’Flanagan novel in the near future!     

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