Cecelia Ahern, the 22-year-old daughter of Irish Prime Minister Bertie Ahern, writes with insight beyond her years in her debut novel, P.S. I Love You, a book at once poignant and comical, introspective and farcical.

Holly Kennedy, 29, has just become a widow when the novel opens, her husband Gerry her best friend, lover and soul mate having succumbed to a brain tumor. Holly slogs through aimless days and nights with only memories to keep her afloat until her mother reminds her of an envelope she received in the mail just before Gerry's death. The notes inside are labeled with the remaining months of the year, March through December, and each one contains a tip, written by Gerry as he was dying, to help Holly get on with her life. The first instructs her to go shopping for a new outfit, which gets her out of her dirty jeans and Gerry's T-shirts; July's note sends her on a vacation to Spain for a week with her two best friends, September pushes her to get out and look for her "best job ever," and December, the last note, encourages Holly not to be afraid to love again.

Gradually, Holly emerges from her cocoon. Armed with a new job in charge of advertising for a trendy magazine, she is constantly buoyed by her long-time friends, who serve as the vehicles for Ahern's comic side. They drag Holly along to "hen parties," shopping trips and balls against her wishes. Side plots focus on Holly's family, who include her doting parents, a stodgy older brother who emerges as one of her staunchest supporters, and her younger sister, pink-haired and flaky, who can always make Holly laugh.

Ahern weaves just the right amount of humor into her tale of Holly's struggle with grief and its aftermath, resulting in a highly engaging addition (for which the movie rights have already been sold) to the "plight of the suddenly single" genre.

Deborah Donovan writes from Cincinnati and La Veta, Colorado.


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