Review: Pieces Of My Heart by Sinead Moriarty
(Penguin Ireland, £12.99)
Sinead Moriarty's first novel, The Baby Trail, was a bestseller both here and in the UK. Her new one, her sixth, sees the Irish author taking on the serious issue of anorexia. Like Marian Keyes and Cathy Kelly, Moriarty has learned there is room in commercial fiction for serious issues as well as humour and comedy. And usually such novels are better for the inclusion of light and shade.
Pieces Of My Heart takes 42-year-old mum Ava as its protagonist. She runs a children's party business with her best friend, the perennially single and child-free Sally. Her husband Paul has built up his pub into a successful business but all that work has taken its toll on their relationship, with the result that they hardly see each other.
Their teenage daughters Sarah and Ali are opposites. Sarah is good-looking and over-confident; Ali is beautiful, studious and insecure. When Ali's boyfriend breaks up with her she starts losing weight dramatically and her parents are horrified when they discover she has anorexia.
Moriarty deals with the issue of anorexia in an informed and sensitive way and has clearly done her research, exploring all the frustrations and heartache parents and siblings go through. Nor does she balk from exploring the potentially fatal impact of this disease.
To suggest this is the main story would be to misrepresent Pieces Of My Heart as there is plenty of humour here too.
Ava's 60-something father Charlie has moved in with her after the death of his second wife. When he begins dating a Polish stripper, Nadia, who is younger than Ava, problems arise.
Nadia is a little clichéd, presented as she is as a gold-digging immigrant, working in the sex trade and preying on foolish older men. Despite this, Nadia's selfishness and Charlie's desperate quest for 'some action' bring light relief.
The book has travelled full circle from Moriarty's debut, which explored a character who was desperate to get pregnant by any means.
This time around we are faced with 40-something Sally's ambiguity towards children. When she meets Simon (whose difficult ex-wife is gloriously psychotic), his desire for children represents an obstacle for their relationship, although I'm wasn't convinced by the compromise they reach.
While Pieces Of My Heart can be simplistic at times, and often the characters seem to simply express the author's hypotheses, it is well-crafted and Moriarty's growing sales are testament to the fact that she is becoming one of Ireland's best-read authors.