Thirty-five-year-old Elizabeth Egan lives in a small town in Ireland where she owns her own interior design company. A controlling personality and perfectionist Elizabeth was abandoned by her mother as a child which led to her raising her sister, Saorise, thirteen years her junior. Elizabeth’s father is a cold, distant man still crushed by the fact that his wife deserted him so many years ago.
Elizabeth is also the adoptive mother to her six-year-old nephew, Luke, although Elizabeth does not consider herself the motherly type. She has little choice in the matter, though; Luke’s mother, her younger sister, Saoirse, has a tendency to run off for parts unknown on drinking binges. Due to her tumultuous past and her sister’s current out-of-control behavior, Elizabeth has structured a rigid existence for herself where she is in complete control.
One day, Luke informs Elizabeth that he has an imaginary friend named Ivan. After a bit of research on the Internet, Elizabeth chalks up Luke’s behavior as normal, believing that his “friend” will disappear within a month or two when Luke loses interest. However, it turns out that Ivan is a “real” imaginary friend: an adult with a knack for befriending children, which is his job. Ivan is from another world, and his job is to temporarily befriend children in need of companionship.
Elizabeth starts to sense Luke’s presence – puzzling because only Luke should be able to see Ivan. Nonetheless, Elizabeth starts to see Ivan, and she thinks that Ivan is a real human being. She does not make the connection that “her” Ivan is the same as Luke’s imaginary friend. She simply thinks that Ivan is a fun, eccentric man everyone else can see, when the reality is that only Luke and Elizabeth can see Ivan.
It seems that Elizabeth and Ivan have nothing in common: he is playful and carefree, while she is uptight and a perfectionist. Slowly but surely, Elizabeth begins to loosen up while in Ivan’s company, and the two become very fond of each other. But Elizabeth knows very little about Ivan, and there is the quintessential question of whether the two can have a real, loving relationship.
Many poignant moments pervade this well-written novel; though a bit slow to start off, the pages turn easily after the first fifty pages or so. The reader definitely needs to suspend reality to enjoy this book as “the imaginary world” plays a major part of the story. This book has a chick lit feel with romance thrown in and will appeal to readers of both genres, assuming they can accept the fact that one of the main characters is not human.