Irish Fairy Tale

Author: Cecelia Ahern

If You Could See Me Now CoverWho doesn’t like a good fairy tale?  Fine, plenty of people.  And mostly with good reason.  Watered down versions of once-cautionary tales have made their way into modern culture and caused a mass-gagging among those of us with low tolerance for sexist, puerile, pabulum.  I’m looking at you, Cinderella.  But sometimes a fairy tale can be light and fun, like Cecelia Ahern’s If You Could See Me Now.

Now, not all of If You Could See Me Now is light and fun.  But the premise is definitely for the young at heart.  It seems that young Luke, aged six, has a new invisible friend named Ivan.  His aunt (and adoptive mother) Elizabeth is concerned, for she is a rigid, controlled interior designer whose favorite color is brown and she has no time for such frivolity.  But she reads up and discovers that such a thing is perfectly normal and usually runs its course given a couple of months.

What Elizabeth does not know is that in her small Irish village (and perhaps everywhere) invisible friends aren’t pretend.  They’re just invisible to people who are unable or unwilling to believe in them.  They are there for those who need them, for as long as they need them.  And it turns out that Elizabeth needs Ivan more than Luke does.

So how does a grown woman accept the notion of having her very own invisible friend?  Well, that’s where If You Could See Me Now takes us.  It also takes us into the rather unpleasant place that is Elizabeth’s own childhood as well as the nasty corners of her current life, including her predicament with her sister (Luke’s biological mother).

Like all fairy tales, this one involves quite a lot of suspending of disbelief, but it’s generally well put together and the characters are full enough that we care how things turn out.  Elizabeth is a prig to the outside world, but she’s really just an emotional wreck using control over her environment to keep herself together.  Luke is minor non-character and only there to introduce Ivan into the proceedings.  Ivan is a man-child, he looks to be of some vague adult age, maybe in his 30s, but has all of the child-like wonder of a 6-year-old.  In this world, invisible friends are special – they aren’t like other people, they don’t age and they do their jobs for whoever needs them.  They are professional best friends.  Ivan usually works with children so he doesn’t quite know what to do with Elizabeth and she doesn’t have the lack of guile that allows most of his friends to accept his unusual nature.  They each have something to learn from the other.  Ahern does a nice job with her setting – the little Irish village can be both charming and suffocating – and the construction of the world of invisible friends, a place we get to go a time or two.

If You Could See Me Now isn’t a perfect book – it goes on too long, the premise gets a little old and Elizabeth can be more than a little dense – but for the most part it’s a quick, light, feel-good read perfect for lazy summer days or winter evenings in front of a fire.  Elizabeth and Ivan are both likable in very, very different ways and each has some suffering to do as they form their bond, resulting in some sweetness, some bitterness and some hard won self-actualization along the way.  Recommended mostly for women who want a light read and a small escape from the laws of reality. 3 1/2 stars out of 5.

— S. Millinocket

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Sue Millinocket
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