Book Review: I Owe You One by Sophie Kinsella

I just finished the book I Owe You One by Sophie Kinsella and it is absolutely marvelous! This is probably the umpteenth (not literally) book I have read by this author and I swear, every time I read her books she spellbinds me with her writing. I devoured this book like her other books, a sweet devil’s food cake. It is about this young woman named Fixie Farr who runs a small shop with her brother, Jake, her sister, Nicole, and her mother. The family is struggling to cope with the death of their father and Jake’s ego gets the best of him when he threatens to revamp the shop so they can cater to a wealthier clientele, meaning that a lot of the inexpensive goods Farr’s would sell wouldn’t sell anymore and that pricier goods would replace the old ones. Moreover, Fixie’s ex-boyfriend, Ryan, who is just as egotistical as Jake, moves back to London with no money and no job after a failed attempt to make it as a film producer in Los Angeles. It gets worse when Fixie goes to a coffee shop and the ceiling collapses on her, leaving her soaking wet. A mysterious man named Sebastian has her watch his laptop, and mystically, the laptop goes undamaged even when Fixie herself is soaking wet from the damage. Sebastian not only thanks her in person for saving his laptop, he gives her a coffee sleeve with the letters “I.O.U” so that he will repay the favor to Fixie someday. Sebastian teaches Fixie a lot of important life lessons, the main one that while it’s ok to do nice things for others, you also have to do nice things for yourself and create some boundaries with others. Otherwise you just burn yourself out and cannot make yourself happy.

Take for instance, Nicole, Fixie’s sister. She doesn’t do much around the house and when Jake lays out his plan at a family dinner while their mom is on vacation, Nicole says that they should not only tear down the merchandise that’s already there, they should have a yoga studio in the store and an Instagram page. But the Instagram page ends up just being Nicole taking photos of herself and not of the store’s merchandise. Nicole is so used to Fixie doing everything that she doesn’t make any real contributions to the household. Even though my struggles weren’t the same as Fixie’s, I can relate to her personality because she is an empath. I am an empath myself and the women in my family are empaths, too, and while being an empath helps me experience the world in ways I wouldn’t normally experience it, and while it helps me awaken to the beauty that life can hold, being an empath can be a mental and emotional drain. I think that’s why Fixie has a hard time accepting that she is in a loving mutual relationship with Sebastian where the two give to each other as much as take from each other. Fixie feels like she should do all the cooking, cleaning, and other stuff, which is how Ryan viewed their relationship (i.e. the woman does all the household stuff and takes care of me while I try to become successful and get a lot of money again). Sebastian, however, respected Fixie and knew how to take care of himself and his own business (he even makes her fudge. Ryan doesn’t even cook, let alone clean).

This book is truly awesome, and I crieda lot towards the end because Sebastian and Fixie’s chemistry was amazing, and how Fixie grows closer to her family by honestly communicating with them about how they give her most of the responsibility. Fixie also comes to terms with the fact that you can’t please everyone and can’t solve everyone’s problems. Ryan bullies Fixie to get him a job because he finds out about the I.O.U. from Sebastian, and Fixie gives in because she thinks Ryan will break up with her if she says no. Fixie has this idealistic vision of her and Ryan in a long-lasting beautiful commitment, and yet her friends warn her that Ryan is flaky and does not like commitment. Fixie doesn’t listen though and gives Ryan the benefit of the doubt, only to realize that he really doesn’t care about her and the only reason he comes over is because he doesn’t want to work hard for his own money or take any responsibility for his own life. Jake eventually realizes that he is in debt due to his excessive lifestyle and that he spent so much time trying to impress others that he hasn’t take the time to reflect on himself and what really makes him happy in life. He eventually goes back to not taking himself so seriously, and this helps humble him.

I can kind of relate because I had this lofty goal of getting into a professional orchestra, and I sort of put on airs about it, but I didn’t have any full-time work. I was also getting rejected by a bunch of other jobs, and at the same time looking down on people who worked jobs in the service industry (ok, not really looking down, but I was pretty indifferent to working in food service). So it’s little surprise that the universe sent me a magical gift: I got a job at a coffee shop, and while I did apply to coffee shops because I needed the money, I expected them to reject me, too. Working this job at the coffee shop really taught me that while I should work hard and do my best at work, I shouldn’t take myself too seriously or else my job wouldn’t be fun. When Jake trades in his expensive lifestyle for full-time work at the shop during the holidays, he is funnier and feels a lot better and more relaxed around his family. When Nicole, Jake and Fixie communicate honestly with each other, they develop a deeper bond than before, which showed me how important genuine communication is. Genuine communication isn’t as pretty as sweeping stuff under the rug, but it is way better than holding in all these negative feelings and letting them fester until it becomes a problem and the person holding in those feelings takes out their anger on themselves. Like Fixie, I bottled up the anger I felt when I felt like I was expounding too much energy taking care of someone else’s mess, and like Fixie, I blamed myself for not making everyone happy and fixing their problems. But eventually I had to realize that you can’t please everyone, and that when you realize this your life actually becomes more fulfilling.

Overall, I loved this book and because there is so much happening in the world today, I needed some fiction to calm me down. So thank you once again, Sophie Kinsella, for your wonderful writing. I wonder how this book would be if it became a film, but the films don’t always do justice to the books (probably for copyright reasons). I could read this book again; it is truly a treasure! 🙂

I Owe You One: A Novel. Sophie Kinsella. 435 pp.

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