In Ahern’s latest (The Gift, 2009, etc.), a family’s secrets lurk in the ruins of an Irish castle.
Tamara, who is 16 but has always felt older, one day finds herself abruptly evicted from her old life. After her father, George, a mega-rich developer, kills himself in the man cave of his Dublin McMansion, his wife, Jennifer, and Tamara learn that he has lost everything to the global real-estate bubble. They move in with Tamara’s country uncle, Arthur, who lives in the gatehouse of Kilsaney Castle with his high-strung wife, Rosaleen. At the gatehouse, Tamara braces herself for a long summer. Her mother is in a near-catatonic state of grief, rarely leaves her bedroom and sleeps most of the time. Rosaleen, when she’s not cooking gargantuan meals, is discouraging Tamara from doing almost anything, from getting the mail to trying to persuade Jennifer to get out of bed. While exploring near the Castle, which was gutted by a long-ago fire, Tamara meets Sister Ignatius, who keeps bees in a walled garden. Sister Ignatius promises never to lie to Tamara, but she’s oddly circumspect when quizzed about Rosaleen’s eccentricities. Boys help relieve the tedium. Should Tamara tell Marcus, the hunk who drives the Bookmobile, that she’s still jailbait? There's also winsome Weseley, Arthur’s summer helper. Weseley’s father, a doctor, makes a house call to treat Jennifer, but Rosaleen drives him away. At the bungalow across the street, Tamara stumbles on enough blown glass to stock several art fairs, but who is the artist? All this would be perplexing enough for Tamara to puzzle out on her own, but Ahern introduces a superfluous note of paranormal activity: a blank diary that periodically tells Tamara, in her own handwriting, what will happen the next day. The diary chronicles the inevitable and the avoidable: It’s up to Tamara to figure out which is which.
A far-fetched novel with too much going on.