Title: Once In a Lifetime
Author: Cathy Kelly
Release Date: January 5, 2010
Publisher: Downtown Press
Genre: Women’s Fiction
Rating: 3.5 out of 5
Once in a Lifetime focuses on Kenny’s Department Store in the small town of Ardagh in Ireland. There’s David Kenny, owner of the store who has secrets he can’t share with anyone, and his famous wife Ingrid, a TV reporter. Charlie is the daughter of the once-famous feminist Kitty, and has never been able to find approval from her mother, while Natalie’s mother died when she was just a baby. These characters, along with many others, make up the cast of Once in a Lifetime.
After reading and enjoying Just Between Us by Cathy Kelly, I was eager to give another of her books a try, so I was thrilled when I received Once in a Lifetime for review. It seemed like there were a lot of characters in this book, and as a result, many heartwarming stories to be told.
My favorite character in Once in a Lifetime was Ingrid. She has so much thrown at her during the course of this novel, so many unexpected occurrences and so many unwanted discoveries, and yet she remains strong and resolute through the novel. Even when she falls apart, she finds the courage to pick up the pieces and put herself back together. Additionally, the fact that she is a smart, successful woman who has managed to stay on TV despite her age is another reason to love Ingrid. Though she sometimes comes across as cold, she’s a well-written and engaging character.
Unfortunately, that can’t be said for all the characters in the novel. Since Ingrid is arguably the main character, the reader spends a lot of time with her and gets to know her well. It’s really difficult with many of the other characters because there are just way too many people in this book. It’s difficult to keep track of who’s who, and sometimes the narrator shifts in the middle of a chapter without much of a warning. Additionally, Kelly sometimes utilizes flashbacks which only serve to muddle the story more – it would have been much more effective if she had chosen to simply have another character deliver the information. It makes the novel difficult to follow and makes it hard to invest in any of the characters.
Still, Once in a Lifetime is an interesting novel that tackles a lot of deep issues – death, alcoholism, and infidelity to just name a few. Though the situation with the characters is difficult, the ones that are well-developed are endearing and easy to love. If you’re new to Cathy Kelly, I’d definitely start with another one of her books, but if you’re a fan, Once in a Lifetime might satisfy you.