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Life for Rosie Dunne and Alex Stewart, best friends since early childhood, begins and ends with one thing: their loyalty to each other. And over decades filled with career changes and derailments, marriages and divorces, infidelity and trust, parenthood and grieving, they’ve braved barriers across an ocean to remain close and share life’s dalliances, dramas and joys.

Cecelia Ahern’s Where Rainbows End is the story of Alex and Rosie’s lives, told exclusively through letters, emails, instant messages and texts sent between them and their wide assortment of family and friends. Part novel and part confessional, Ahern’s story works effectively to bring to life two people who never stopped loving each other — though destiny seemed to conspire to keep them apart.

It was easy to love Rosie, a young Irish woman who tried so hard to make her parents proud — but struggled mightily to find her footing in life. At the age of 18, she becomes pregnant with Katie, and the two work hard to establish a life for themselves as Rosie bounces from job to job in search of her “calling” — which turns out to involve the managing of hotels, the object of her devotion since childhood. Alex, likewise, comes across as the steadfastly devoted friend and father as he moves from Dublin to Boston, where he begins his career as a cardiologist. Though miles apart, Rosie and Alex keep up with one another by maintaining a steady stream of contact — except when things get too sticky.

Though I knew in my heart of hearts how this story just had to end, it didn’t make getting there any less enjoyable. Spanning more than forty years, Where Rainbows End was a really fun, entertaining read that had me alternately pulling my hair out in frustration and tearing up with joy when things finally began to turn around. Because seriously? Poor Rosie. How much bad luck can one person have?

My only complaint with the novel is, weirdly, also one of the things I liked best about it (can that really be true?): it was long. Any story covering four decades is going to be lengthy, I suppose, but I did start to lose interest somewhere in the thick middle because things just couldn’t seem to get any worse for these folks. So many missed opportunities; so much misfortune. I wanted to play God, wave a magic wand and untangle all the messes before things got worse.

Favorite characters included Ruby, Rosie’s well-meaning but straight-shooting best friend, who seemed to be the only one talking sense at some points; Stephanie, Rosie’s sister who marries a Frenchmen and lives a fascinating life in Paris; and Katie, Rosie’s ambitious and free-spirited daughter, one who loves her mother fiercely but also possesses a sense of adventure not unlike her own mother’s. I also loved seeing a loyal, loving and functional family — Dennis and Alice Dunne, Rosie’s parents, would do anything to help her in her quest to expand beyond Dublin and make hers a life really worth living. Stephanie and Kevin, Rosie’s siblings, were realistically drawn and compassionate, though I wanted to give Kev a good shake a few times!

Fans of women’s fiction and those who love epistolary novels will enjoy the drama and romance of it all — and if you’re a fan of Irish fiction, so much the better!

Categories: book

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