Incest without tears--but with heaps of grim retribution--as McGinley continues to move from the black comedy of Bogmail to...



Incest without tears--but with heaps of grim retribution--as McGinley continues to move from the black comedy of Bogmail to a grimmer sort of fiction that verges on the merely morbid. (Cf. the oddly unpleasant Goosefoot.) Kevin Hurley and his earthy twin sister Maureen--who share a remote Irish farmhouse with their bedridden, aged father--have been secret but unashamed lovers for three years, ever since their mother's agonizing death from cancer. (Kevin, it seems, may have mercifully speeded the demise along.) But now, at 40, Maureen is pregnant, refusing either to go away or to have an abortion. So, to prevent the neighbors from drawing scandalous conclusions, Kevin must find Maureen a consort--eventually, in desperation, taking foul Billy Shoddy on as hired hand, with disastrous results: Billy catches on to the ongoing sibling incest (giving him blackmail power), while it turns out that Maureen's not pregnant after all. Meanwhile, even worse, Kevin seems to be suffering for his sexual sinning: his best friend, neighbor-farmer Murt, dies in an accident on the farm--as does little visiting nephew Breffny. And so, seeking some kind of redemption, Kevin now chastely courts Murt's demure sister Elizabeth--with old father Hurley dying on the wedding day. Nor do things improve after the gentle, successful honeymoon: there's ugly triangular tension in the expanded household, Maureen refusing to do without brother Kevin in her bed; Elizabeth--utterly blind to the incest, revolted by the coarse ways of Maureen and Billy--breaks out in a leprosy-like rash, eventually moving back to her own farm, now pregnant. And, thanks to Billy, Elizabeth does finally learn the siblings' secret--a shock which brings on premature birth and double-tragedy, McGinley, a gifted storyteller, offers sporadic moments of evocative farm-life, genuine erotic tension, and grisly humor here. As before, there are grand little chunks of pub-talk and vigorous eccentricity. But Kevin and Maureen are never quite believable in their precisely parallel sexual abnormality; the narrative seems to waver uncertainly between ironic fable and something more serious. And the ultimate effect, despite intriguing touches along the way, is that of a dour illustrated sermon, with Kevin punished extravagantly for his sin. . . because ""Sex is Death's sister.

Pub Date: Oct. 26, 1983


Page Count: -

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 1983

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