The title really says it all…Rachel is in a rehab centre for addiction but she is in complete denial. She doesn’t really understand why the people who love her have committed her to this ‘holiday’ but since all she’s heard about is how celebrities go away to posh places for a ‘rest’, she thinks she’s in for a few weeks of the gym, the sauna, sun beds, and hobnobbing with the rich and famous. The reality couldn’t be further from the truth.
Even though the author herself says it’s not, this is comedic chick lit. Wikipedia defines chick lit as stories that: “usually revolve around a strong female character who overcomes numerous obstacles to achieve lasting happiness.” Keyes’ novels are different in that the ‘obstacles’ are not frivolous fluff but important issues…in this case, addiction. Some of her other books cover topics like infertility, domestic abuse, bereavement, and depression. Though I do admit to the occasional chuckle, I mostly found the humour snarky and rude and I don’t think 600+ pages were quite worth it. I can applaud her handling of Rachel’s journey though, from major denial through to gradual understanding and acceptance of her addiction–all aspects that ring true and could be very helpful to anyone affected by this experience. But as a novel I found the characters to be flat and cliché and not developed enough to even care about them much.
Chick lit is not my favourite genre. I read the book because I have been invited to be in the audience at a BBC interview with the author (World Book Club), and because I had not yet read any of her books before. Rachel’s Holiday seemed a bit like a women’s version of James Frey’s controversial story from a decade ago: A Million Little Pieces. After reading it, you want to not walk but run away from anything addictive that could so completely destroy your life. And that is a powerful message.