At over 500 pages, itís a good thing that What She Wants by Cathy Kelly has interesting characters, or itís unlikely that readers would make the time investment necessary to learn about their lives. Before opening the cover, the large tome is daunting. However, as soon as you get involved in these womenís trials and tribulations, the pages go by rather quickly.
What She Wants is the story of four women. Hope is a married mother of two whose husband tells her he wants to put his job as an advertising executive on hold while they move to the Irish countryside so he can write a novel. Sam is Hopeís sister, a record executive who rarely takes the time to care for herself, let alone find a significant other and start a family. Virginia is a widowed woman who has moved to a small town to try to recover and find herself again. Nicole is a young woman who finds herself on the brink of stardom when she sends a demo tape to a record company.
Hope must struggle to find herself and get out of the shadow of her overbearing husband. Sam has to rethink her life when she becomes ill and realizes she has devoted far too much time to her career. Virginia needs to make a life for herself without her beloved husband. These three women find allies in each other and other women in the small town of Redlion, where they often get together to drink martinis and talk about their hopes and dreams. The lives of these women mesh well together and present a picture of camaraderie and friendship. Nicoleís story, however, never seems to fit in with the rest of the womenís and makes the reader wonder why she is included at all.
The main characters are written with depth and feeling and itís easy to become attached to them. Reading about their lives is a joy as Kelly makes them interesting and real. The description of the Irish countryside is also well written, and the characters interact well with their surroundings and the atmosphere. The only detractors from this beautiful novel are the parts about Nicole (whose story could have easily been left out, which would have trimmed a bit of length) and an ending which is a little too neat. Despite these drawbacks, What She Wants is a touching novel about the friendship of women and the power of love.