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by Marian Keyes
Avon, 1999
Review by Prem Dana Takada, B.B.Sc. (Hons) M.A. on Jan 27th 2003

Last Chance Saloon

Another bitingly humorous novel from the best selling author of Lucy Sullivan Gets Married, Last Chance tracks just that, the last chances of the central characters. A two-tiered storyline the first focused on the lives of three childhood friends, the tortured Tara, the fabulous Fintan and Kat-like Katherine. The main heroine, Tara, as in Keyes other novels, finds herself in an extremely bad relationship with her take-her for-granted, unreliable, insulting, no-good–but-she-thinks-is-very-charming man. Without giving the plot away, again the reader is given a karthartic experience in the original Greek tragedy sense of the word i.e. to watch on stage the tragedy and storyline unfolding. We see the heroine struggle with her delusions, her incredibly low self-esteem and her very wishful thinking and her diet, before it all crumbles with the assistance of a dying request from one of the other characters. It is the death before the inevitable rebirth.

The other female lead, Katherine, on the other hand, is asked to finally get over an aching past hurt and get into some serious love action. I can see why my female clientele raucously enjoy Keyes‘s novels. In this one, with the addition of flamboyant Fintan, the historical aspects to the novel and the complementary side-show story of Lorcan-the-laconic-lady–killer, the tales are entwined into a seamless satire. Well, I hope that satire is at lest part of Keyes intentions though the lines probably ring too true to be put into that category.

Keyes once again delivers a highly entertaining novel. She portrays office scenes like nobody in the business and captures the partying, dieting and love seeking of young thirtysomethings in London with realistic detail. And it has great recipes “ go to the supermarket, buy the …open it, put it in the microwave,” which shows that honesty in itself can be a deshaming and liberating experience.

Keyes’ novels are therapeutic on a variety of fronts. Women can relate to the pain of dysfunctional family backgrounds often involving alcohol abuse, and to the humiliation of staying and participating in dysfunctional relationships but they also get to laugh at their dilemmas and get to feel that they are not alone in the struggle for love and dignity. In a way I guess we are all in the “Last Chance Saloon” and the minute we realize it, “it makes everything more precious”. And Tara’s search for the Holy Grail, or in this case indelible lipstick, is realized. Also recommended for males with an interest in women driven by guilt.

 

© 2003 Prem Dana Takada

 

Prem Dana Takada, B.B.Sc. (Hons) M.A. Clinical Psychology originally trained as a Clinical Psychologist in Melbourne, Australia where she also acquired registration as a Family Therapist. After leaving Australia, Prem Dana worked as a Principal Clinical Psychologist in West London where she continued to work with individuals, couples, families, and as a group therapist and received further training in Hypnotherapy in Oxford. She has traveled widely having also lived and worked in India, and has been in Japan for the last seven years where she currently runs the Psychotherapy and Healing Practice and is President of International Mental Health Professionals Japan--a professional organization established for international therapists.