Chasing Marian (2022) – Amy Heydenrych, Qarnita Loxton, Pamela Power, and Gail Schimmel

Title:Chasing Marian
Author/s:Amy Heydenrych, Qarnita Loxton, Pamela Power and Gail Schimmel
Publisher/s:Pan Macmillan SA
Date of publication:2022
Star Rating:⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
Disclaimer:Pan Macmillan SA kindly sent me a copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review.

Chasing Marian must have been as fun to write as it was to read. Written by four South African authors during the pandemic lockdown, this is a novel about four strangers that become friends through the wonderful world of social media. Four strangers who not only become friends, and allies but who also have the same goal: to meet internationally renowned Irish author Marian Keyes.

Jess is from Johannesburg, has two children, and is married to Joe, an investment banker. Joe has moved out of the house after a series of problems at work. To while away the hours spent living a very privileged life, Jess drinks a little heavier than she should and has recently started reading Marian Keyes. She’s the only novice MK fan.

Ginger is a grandmother and widow married to a rather boring man named Roger for years. Now she’s on her own, and it’s taking all of her energy just to keep from telling her meddling daughters to stop constantly interfering in her life. Ginger is bold and brash, has a wicked sense of humor, and is completely loveable.

Matt is a man who loves reading Marian Keyes, and he is not gay, thank you very much! He’s in his mid-twenties and is still living at home whilst he finishes his degree in psychology. His dad is an alcoholic, and for years Matt has watched his mother enable her husband’s behavior. He hasn’t been romantically successful of late and is stuck in a platonic friendship with Sadie, who is a tad on the brash side.

Queenie is the only one who doesn’t live in Johannesburg. A librarian from Cape Town by day, Queenie indulges in a secret writing habit by night. She lives with her sister and is in a long-distance relationship with Kevin. She longs for adventure, and for a chance to leave her average life, and average relationship behind – perhaps that’s why she enjoys writing fiction so much.

The foursome meet on a Facebook group for South African fans of Marian Keyes, and when they hear the news that Keyes may be attending the Franschoek Literary Festival to promote her new book, the super-fans decide to join forces and make a plan to meet her in person.

Each of the characters has their own reason for wanting to meet MK, and despite being from completely different backgrounds and places in their lives, they manage to build a relationship with one another that transcends their mutual love of ‘chick lit’. Together they come up with ways not only to meet a celebrity but also ways to deal with life – because life always gets in the way.

“I think of Marian Keyes across the world in Ireland in what I imagine to be a cheerful, brightly colored home, hopefully typing diligently in enviable silk loungewear. What makes her resonate so much with South Africans? With me? Is it the shared violence in our national histories that has bred this dark yet emotionally vivid sense of humor?”

In many ways Chasing Marian is rather a ‘life imitating art imitating life’ sort of deal. Written by four authors who would meet on ZOOM to write this novel, the characters meet up on ZOOM to discuss their plans and share their love of books. One can’t help but compare their story to that of a Marian Keyes novel itself – it is witty, heart-breaking, heart-warming, and thoroughly entertaining. Each chapter is written from the point of view of a different character, and each character has been written by a different author making this novel an eclectically technical delight.

Much like Keyes‘ novels life is not easy, and there is a lot of raw and unedited pain to go through before the characters can reach the other side. There isn’t always a neat and happy ending either, and like any Marian Keyes novel, Chasing Marian’s characters will deal with an array of issues including alcoholism, depression, and the deeply terrifying experience of falling in love.

An enormously fun novel about friendship, finding our passion in life, realizing our strengths, and the glorious wonder that comes from loving books.

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