The Last Chance Saloon

by Marian Keyes

I didn’t like this book solely because of Tara and Katherine the two protagonists. Tara was the main source of my ire throughout 80% of the book. Katherine certainly had her problems, but my disgust at her behavior during the last 10% of the book was so strong that I would have to put them on equal footing as the source of my reluctant disappointment. It’s funny. The last two novels I read left me unimpressed because the writing was such that I didn’t feel invested in the story or the characters. In this one, I felt too invested! I wanted to choke both of these women.

In this saga (and at around 600 pages, it qualifies as such-even though I listened to it on Audible) We follow the London lives of Irish Tara, Katharine, and their friends Fintan, Sandro, and Liv. Everything is from Tara and Katherine’s point of view, so theirs are the thoughts and feelings we are privy to throughout. They have both struggled with their relationships with men their whole lives and everything comes to a head when Fintan is diagnosed with what appears to be terminal cancer. Floating around in the background is scum of the earth Lorcan Lorcan, seemingly unrelated to our band of friends until we get to over halfway through. Tara is in an abusive relationship with the heinous Thomas. Whom she refuses to leave because she feels she is in “The Last Chance Saloon”. That is, she is convinced that if she leaves him, she will be without a boyfriend for the rest of her life, and that is absolutely the worst fate that can happen to a woman. She is 31 (thirty-one). 31! Abuse (mental only) piles on abuse, cruelty upon cruelty, hatefulness upon hatefulness, and she keeps making excuses for him and ignoring how miserable she is in sheer desperation not to be alone. Except that she has the best friends in the world. Alone=no boyfriend. Really, Marian? This continues throughout 80% of the book until Fintan makes her promise to leave Thomas before he dies. Even then it takes her too long to actually do so. And even when she does, she is only prevented from going back by the vigilance of her best friend Katherine. It was just too much. I couldn’t stand it.

Katherine was actually an interesting and likable character despite her quirks. Her story was the salvation of this book until it wasn’t. She is a closed-up control freak in her office and with men. She has a history of sabotaging her relationships with men and leaving them, so they don’t hurt her. At the time of this story, she has shut down completely and will not let any man in. Not that they’d want to. Although beautiful, she is an “ice queen.” To her friends, she is a wonderful girl. To their friends, both Katherine and Tara are sweet, fun, and generous. One day, Joe comes into her life. For Joe, it is love at first sight. He sees past the unbending cold façade she wears at work to the lovable person she is underneath. He is handsome, sexy, and best of all, a wonderful, great, decent guy. After an encounter with the previously mentioned Lorcan, he becomes, at least to me, a superhero. After many struggles with herself and at the behest of dying Fintan, Katherine lets Joe into her life, and they embark upon a serious and seriously happy relationship.

When the book is almost finished, Katherine does something so awful, that I actually couldn’t believe it. It brought the book down from 3 or 3 and 1/2 stars to 2 1/2 stars. In this last section, We finally see where Lorcan figures into the life of one of our protagonists, and he finally gets his long-time-coming final goose-cooking.

Marian Keyes is a wonderful writer. I love her. There are many both touching and funny parts in this book. All of the many characters are beautifully drawn in that you really love them or really loathe them. Even with Tara and Katherine, I couldn’t really hate them as people, but as women, I was really horrified at some of their actions and thoughts. Milly Johnson once wrote a character who was as weak, oblivious, and self-destructive, In fact, she’s written several. A Summer Fling for just one example. In those books, though, they were only a third or a fourth of the story. In LCS, Tara and Katherine are 75% of the story. Thankfully, the conclusion abounds with happy hopeful endings, despite their many efforts to be miserable for the rest of their lives. **2 1/2 out of 5 stars**

Rating: 2.5 out of 5.

June 6, 2021 

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