When the four adult Madigan children come home for Christmas to visit their widowed mother for the last time before the family house is sold, a familiar landscape of tensions is renewed and reordered.
Newly chosen as Ireland’s first fiction laureate, Enright (The Forgotten Waltz, 2012, etc.) showcases the unostentatious skill that underpins her success and popularity in this latest story of place and connection, set in an unnamed community in County Clare. Rosaleen Considine married beneath her when she took the hand of Pat Madigan decades ago. Their four children are now middle-aged, and only one of them, Constance, stayed local, marrying into the McGrath family, which has benefited comfortably from the nation’s financial boom. Returning to the fold are Dan, originally destined for the priesthood, now living in Toronto, gay and “a raging blank of a human being”; Emmet, the international charity worker struggling with attachment; and Hanna, the disappointed actress with a drinking problem. This is prime Enright territory, the fertile soil of home and history, cash and clan; or, in the case of the Madigan reunion, “all the things that were unsayable: failure, money, sex and drink.” Long introductions to the principal characters precede the theatrical format of the reunion, allowing Enright plenty of space to convey her brilliant ear for dialogue, her soft wit, and piercing, poetic sense of life’s larger abstractions. Like Enright's Man Booker Prize–winning The Gathering (2007), this novel traces experience across generations although, despite a brief crisis, this is a less dramatic story, while abidingly generous and humane.
A subtle, mature reflection on the loop of life from a unique writer of deserved international stature.