BOOK REVIEW: Catch 26 by Carol Prisant

What if you had the opportunity to live life all over again, just the way you wanted it? In Catch 26, the new novel by Carol Prisant, one woman is given the chance to have the life she dreamed of - that is, if she makes a deal with the devil.

Frannie Turner is a housewife in a loveless marriage. At sixty-six, she has become even more conscious of herself; her ageing body, her uninterested husband, and the fact that her dream of having children never came true. Having never worked or had a career, art lover Frannie is facing the reality that her life has become dull, and worse still, lonely.

When her friend recommends a brand new salon in town, Frannie shows up for her appointment, thinking a new hairdo will at least give her a little pleasure. As it happens, she gets more than she bargained for when she meets the beautiful - almost inhuman - stylist Randi. After Randi explains that she is an assistant to the devil and that she can grant Frannie whatever she desires, Frannie's understandably hesitant.  Beauty, youth, sex, immortality - it's Frannie's for the taking. Under one condition - that she signs away her soul.

Thinking she has nothing to lose, Frannie signs up, and soon she finds herself a new woman. Well, almost. She's still Frannie, but in the body of a model-perfect twenty-six year old. There is, however, one catch - she must either find true love or get pregnant within a year, or her soul is doomed to hell for eternity.

Still, it shouldn't be that hard, right? Heading to NYC under a new name, she intends to find her Mr Right in the city. After all, with such stunning new looks, finding a man should be simple. But Frannie's still new to this young, modern life, and it turns out that being a singleton in a big city is more of a challenge than she envisioned. When luck brings her money and a job, the rest - her devilish bet - is down to her. And she only has a year to complete her task. Plus, it turns out that doing a deal with the devil brings plenty of obstacles, too...

The premise of Catch 26 was interesting and one I simply had to read it. After all, don't we all wish for changes in our lives? Beauty, money, the chance to be younger again? But if you had the chance, would you bargain away your soul? At first, Frannie's agreement is understandable. A woman with no love in her life, her dreams lost over the years - well, there's not much to lose. But throughout the book, Frannie does begin to learn quite a few lessons about life as she embarks on the challenges set.

I loved Frannie from page one. She seemed quite naive on the surface at first, a woman who has spent a lot of her life being walked over, wasting her potential somewhat. But deep down there was a headstrong, exceptionally smart and sensible woman just waiting to get out. Which made her transition a whole lot more interesting when everything she wanted was there for the taking. Frannie maintained her sensibilities, which I admired. Also, Carol Prisant knows a LOT about art and antiques, being an antiques dealer and an author of non-fiction books on the subject, and it shows in this novel, in Frannie's passion and dedication for her new-found job in the art world.

Catch 26 is a wonderful novel. It's contemporary fiction with a dark twist, with elements of an old-fashioned fairytale. (And, of course, with a plot reminiscent of Faust). It's thought-provoking, comedic at times, and the ending is so beautifully tragic. It's a novel that really makes you think about life and makes you ask yourself, 'would I give it up in exchange for what I want?' Needless to say, I highly recommend Catch 26.

Rating: 5/5

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