Roddy Doyle has visited Paula Spencer twice before. First in The Family, a BBC TV serial; then in The Woman Who Walked into Doors. Ten years on from the last book, Paula is a recovering alcoholic who only recently crawled out of the bottle. The boom years of the Celtic Tiger have passed her by: Paula continues to clean Dublin offices and houses for a living. Her youngest two children are still at home. Jack is fine but Leanne is heading towards alcoholism herself. Her other son, John Paul, is estranged and a former heroin junkie, and her oldest, Nicola, worries about her.
Paula is pulling herself together, but it’s not easy. She is emotionally volatile and insecure, afraid of being rejected by her children, and sometimes only a hairsbreadth away from taking another drink. But she hasn’t lost her sense of humor. She’s a sympathetic character, not a whinger.
This is vintage Roddy Doyle and it’s both very funny and emotionally true, an unsparing but affectionate portrait of a flawed heroine.