Reviewed by Kay Brooks
Anna Walsh’s glamorous career, beloved husband, Aiden, and exciting life in the bustling city of New York seem more than a world away as she lies on her mother’s sofa in Dublin. Before she can return to reclaim her life as it was before, she needs time to recuperate. Her body and emotional wellbeing have taken an intense battering that Anna doubts she will ever come back from. One thing is sure; she has to find Aiden no matter what it takes. The fact that he has seemingly vanished may complicate matters, but it won’t stop Anna from trying anything and everything to bring him back to her.
The Walsh family are, first of all, large! Anna has five very individual sisters, all with hilarious quirks. They are also grippingly entertaining. She has an overpowering mother too, who has a funny habit of misunderstanding clichés, but tries to use them regularly in emails anyway, and a rather hen-pecked father. The novel’s premise, as is common in Keyes’ writing, is serious but she manages to take a challenging topic and explore it with both compassion and humour. There were times throughout the story when I gripped my chest with empathy for Anna’s heartbreaking bewilderment and intense pain, but just pages later I would find myself chortling at some wild escapade her sister Helen, an amateur detective, had managed to get herself tangled up in.
A number of distinctly unusual characters are introduced as the plot progresses, including a flamboyantly gay neighbour, who loves to sing loudly and seems to be drawn to men who will treat him terribly (even stealing his pan sets), and self-proclaimed psychic who believes she can channel the voices of those long gone.
The technique of withholding specific information about the ‘something terrible’ that has resulted in Anna being badly injured and scarred creates a level of intrigue that was sometimes unbearable. I had to fight the urge to skip ahead and find out what had happened and why Aiden’s name was unutterable in the Walsh household, but I’m extremely glad that I didn’t! When I reached the revelation, I had to put the book down while I took the information in. Somehow, Keyes manages to take control of your emotions and twist them every which way before setting you free at the end of the novel. Luckily for me, I have been informed that Anybody Out There? is number five in a series of Walsh novels, as I was not ready for my journey with the characters to end.
Taking into account that this novel is well over 400 pages, I read it in record time, snatching any moment I could to continue reading. This is not a book that is put down and forgotten. I thought about Anna long after reading and have recommended it to many friends.
Marian Keyes Website