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Upside Down Inside Out    by Monica McInerney order for
Upside Down Inside Out
by Monica McInerney
Order:  USA  Can
Ballantine, 2008 (2008)
Softcover, e-Book

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* *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Monica McInerney's aptly titled Upside Down Inside Out - a lighthearted romance that takes place in Dublin, Ireland, Melbourne, Australia, and Manhattan - is a witty tale of unfulfilled lives that are ultimately sorted out, with varied misunderstandings and white lies acting as catalysts along the way.

Eva Kennedy has helped her uncle Ambrose to run his shop (which sells gourmet foods) for several years since her aunt's death, dropping out of art school and putting aside her budding singing career to do so. As the story opens, her ordered life is suddenly disrupted, both by her realization of her boyfriend Dermot's true character and by Ambrose's announcement of his imminent retirement and plans to hand over the business to her. Overwhelmed and unsure of what she wants to do, Eva flies to Melbourne to visit her best friend Lainey.

Joseph Wheeler is a talented and very creative designer, whose dream job has somehow morphed into the demanding drudgery of running a world class industrial and ergonomic design business. Unhappy with the direction his life has taken, but unsure what to do about it, he heads to Sydney, Australia to speak at a conference there. Before he leaves, his mother Kate drops a bombshell about his father Lewis, who divorced her and moved to Australia when Joseph was a small boy. Kate asks him to visit Lewis in South Australia.

In Melbourne, Lainey has a bit of fun, introducing Eva to her friends as Niamh Kennedy, a very successful Irish sculptor and singer. Ready for a new (but very transitory) perspective on life Eva plays along. To her dismay, the lie grows and develops a life of its own. On the other hand, when Joe ends up in Melbourne, people assume he's a poor backpacker - and he doesn't challenge their assumptions, curious about where they will lead. Of course their paths cross, but their mutual attraction is tempered by anxiety about misleading each other.

Readers are pretty sure that it will all work out in the end. It does - with a few surprises en route, for both readers and protagonists - but of course the fun lies in watching how the author manipulates her plot to reach that happy ending. A Monica McInerney novel is always pleasant reading, and I recommend Upside Down Inside Out as an engaging summer diversion. Note that there's a Reader's Guide at the end, as well as an excerpt from the author's next work, Spin the Bottle.

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