A new leash of life for chick-lit
No Ordinary Love Anita Notaro (Transworld Ireland,€12.99)
Anita Notaro's fifth novel, No Ordinary Love, is certainly timely, thanks to Tiger Woods and his stint in rehab for sex addiction. The central character is Louisa, a psychologist who specialises in working with sex addicts.
Clearly, Notaro, a former RTE television executive who produced The Late Late Show for years and also did a Eurovision or two, is up to speed with her subject choice. Her last novel, Take A Look At Me Now, which won praise from critics and the Galaxy Irish Popular Fiction Book of the Year, tackled a similarly sensitive issue, delving into the world of high-class prostitution.
Notaro's latest offering gets off to a rocket-paced start, as the first-person narrative swiftly brings the reader deep into the mind of psychologist Louisa, who has grown weary of listening to her clients' problems and the comfortable lifestyle her job has afforded her. She is deeply unhappy; and by the time the second chapter closes, Louisa has swapped her soft-top sports car for a motorbike, and moved out of her stylish city centre pad and into a mobile home down an isolated laneway just outside Bray in Co Wicklow. And the young high-flier decides to ditch her clients and sets herself up as an animal behaviouralist.
The swift pace of the novel continues, with Louisa managing to quickly pick up several clients who answer her 'Doggies and Moggies in Distress' advert in the paper.
Louisa's inner voice, at times hilariously funny and brutally honest, is brilliantly written, and the lack of a separate narrative voice adds to the hurtling pace of the action.
New characters, who enter the story as the motley crew of pet owners that seek out Louisa's help, give the author a chance to flex her well-toned comedy muscles. Her very first clients, two women who are deadlocked over whether to get a puppy, are promptly labelled "the delectable dykes".
But Louisa soon discovers that her days of counselling humans are far from over, as each of her new clients' owners manage to lure her into helping them with non-canine-related problems, and she all too quickly finds herself embroiled in each of their lives.
Running through the very core of No Ordinary Love is the issue of parents and their children, starting with oblique references to Louisa's fractious relationship with her own mother, Martha, and the father she never knew.
There is Emily, with the cat her mother believes is the reincarnation of the family's deceased pooch, who discovers she is adopted and tries to find her birth mother; young widower Ronan -- who brings his grandmother's dog Deputy to Louisa -- entrusted the care of his young son to his sister and now hopes she will officially adopt the boy; Dinny, a Louth farmer with a moody mutt, wants to find the woman he abandoned 20 years ago and the child he never knew.
But as she is trying to sort out the lives of what, at times, feels like every new person she meets, Louisa must come to terms with her new, pared-back existence, liberated from the stresses and drudgery of her former life.
She gains her strength from gal pals Maddy and Clodagh, and the trio of friends operate as a kind of more traditional chick-lit side plot. Louisa's search for love also provides a more conventional storyline, as she looks for, and eventually finds, a man, and a dog, worthy of her affections.
Two twists near the novel's conclusion add weight to a plot that at times threatens to stray off the leash. Unfortunately, though, they come too late in proceedings to be fully explored.
But No Ordinary Love is another success for Notaro, who has once again offered the reader something more than the average chick-lit fare.