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Lucy Sullivan is Getting Married
by Marian Keyes
(Avon, $24.00, PG) ISBN 0-380-97618-8
After writing a rave review for Marian Keyes' first novel, Watermelon, I couldn't wait to get my hands on her next release. However, I was surprised and disappointed to find that Lucy Sullivan paled in comparison to its predecessor. Both the British humor and cozy, first-person narrative were still evident, but the clueless heroine left me cold.

Lucy Sullivan's three office co-workers persuade her to accompany them on a visit to a fortune teller. Broke and skeptical, Lucy scoffs when the amateurish psychic predicts that she will get married within a year. But gradually the fortunes predicted for Lucy's office mates begin to come true, albeit in slightly strange ways. So maybe Lucy will be wearing a long white dress in the near future. Trouble is, she doesn't have a man in her life right now, except for her charming father and her brother's annoying but handsome friend Daniel.

Then Lucy attends a party with her two flat-mates, and meets Gus. He's charming, free-spirited and poor – a typical Lucy Sullivan boyfriend. But, given the timing, it's possible that Gus could be the man that the psychic saw in Lucy's future nuptials. The signs look good, although Gus always borrows money from Lucy, disappears for weeks at a time, and never says how he feels about her.

Lucy Sullivan didn't make me laugh out loud as much as Watermelon did, but it has its share of priceless moments and characters. My favorite is the video store sales clerk who bullies Lucy into making highbrow choices when she is just looking for a good chick flick ("I tried to take out When A Man Loves a Woman and came home instead with Krzysztof Kieslowski's The Double Life of Veronique. I wanted to rent Postcards from the Edge and somehow ended up with Il Postino – the undubbed, unsubtitled version."). Then there's the blind date from hell with an extremely gauche American who has no couth whatsoever ("It was not so much that he broke wind. It was more like he took a hammer to it and shattered it into a million pieces.")

I also admire Marian Keyes for creating the first romantic comedy heroine I've encountered who readily admits that she suffers from bouts of clinical depression. Her description of Lucy's first depressive episode is poignant and hilarious at the same time –and also unerringly realistic.

But the predominant feeling I got as I read this novel was annoyance with this naive, almost masochistic heroine. If you like being reminded of the worst boyfriends you ever had – admit it, you've had one or two who treated you like dirt – then you'll love Lucy's obsession with Gus. I found it was too painful to watch her accept his abhorrent behavior with lame excuses such as "I'm expecting too much" or "It's okay because he needs me so much." It's also obvious to everyone but the heroine why she engages in this co-dependent, self-destructive behavior and why she ignores the perfectly wonderful man who's waiting for her.

The scales do eventually fall from Lucy's eyes and the novel picks up steam during the final 100 pages as she puts her life back together and starts taking action that could lead to a satisfying fulfillment of the fortune teller's prophecy. She also starts to realize the truth about her family dynamics that have contributed to her periodic depressions. Suddenly she turns into a heroine to root for, instead of one you want to slap.

I'm all for character growth, but Lucy Sullivan remains too clueless for too long in this novel. If you can tolerate this less-than-perfect but always humorous heroine you will probably enjoy Lucy Sullivan more than I did. Watermelon will be released in paperback this July – I'd recommend that you read that 5-heart keeper instead.

--Susan Scribner

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