Book review: I Owe You One by Sophie Kinsella

Owe yourself this
Last Updated 23 March 2019, 19:30 IST

She’s not known as Fixie for nothing. She HAS to fix things. Even in strangers’ homes and offices. A crooked vase here, an out-of-place book there… she can’t help but ‘fix’ them. So goes with others’ lives. Well, that’s Fixie Farr. That’s who she is. A master fixer. Her life revolves around Farrs, a home-goods store in West London, which her father had set up. She runs it with her mother while her two older siblings — brother Jake and sister Nicole — are only good at talking her down. A chance encounter in a coffee shop with a man who wants her to watch his laptop while he answers a phone call sets off a series of I owe you’s, lending the story its name, and taking the story forward.

It so happens that when Fixie is ‘watching’ the stranger’s laptop, on request, the ceiling right above the laptop decides to cave in, and Fixie being Fixie jumps to save the laptop, at the cost of her own safety. Moved by this gesture of hers, Seb, the owner of the laptop, scribbles, “I owe you one. Redeemable in perpetuity,” on a coffee sleeve. Fixie treats it as a joke, puts the coffee sleeve into her bag, and forgets all about it.

It is at this point in time does Jake’s best friend Ryan Chalker, Fixie’s crush since school days, makes an entry. He, who had moved to Los Angeles to become a movie producer. He says he’s back for good as “he has had it. He’s done with LA.” He wants to start afresh, in London, and he desperately needs a job. Master-fixer Fixie’s mind goes in overdrive. She remembers the IOU Seb had handed her out. Desperate to get Ryan to stay in London, she decides to cash it. After all, Seb is a successful investment manager who hires ‘bright’ people, and Ryan is ‘bright’, according to her. Thus begins Fixie and Seb’s endless exchange of favours and I owe you’s.

In the meanwhile, a lot is happening in Fixie’s life. Dealing with Ryan’s on-again, off-again promises of a relationship, the shocking revelation of his affairs with other women in his workplace, her mother’s holiday to Spain following a health scare, and to top it all, running the store in her mother’s absence even amidst her siblings’ crazy ideas for the store. Yes, while Jake wants to turn Farrs into an upscale store stocking expensive stuff that doesn’t suit the budget of their regular customers, Nicole wants to start a yoga studio by clearing shelves that are popular with the buyers. And, of course, there’s Uncle Ned, who loves to ‘facilitate’ family meetings in posh restaurants that serve fancy cocktails and steaks at the expense of Farrs. Phew!

So goes the story. Amidst the trading of ‘I owe you’s’, a relationship blossoms between Fixie and Seb which, unfortunately, runs into rough weather owing to Fixie’s fondness to ‘fix’ things in Seb’s life. To add to the muddle is Jake’s business failure, and the store finances that are in the red. Obviously, Fixie’s life is in a mess. Will Fixie, at least now, turn the focus on her life and make an attempt to ‘fix’ it? Will she be able to assert herself with her siblings who have always treated her like a doormat? Well, you have to read I Owe You One to find the answers.

If Sophie Kinsella’s previous books are any indication, this one will also be a sure-fire hit with her readers. For, Fixie is an adorable character, a simple girl with simple dreams, just like you and me. The plot is also simple, relatable, and the narrative flows forth seamlessly, lending the book a breezy feel. The book ends as a journey begins. And, I guess, that’s Sophie’s job to take it forward. Yet again, like a few of her previous books that have seen the big screen, it will not be a surprise if this too makes the cut with its Made-For-Hollywood storyline. Happy reading!

(Published 23 March 2019, 19:30 IST)

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