A GOAT'S SONG by Dermot Healy


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From the author of 1986's Fighting with Shadows comes this sprawling novel about one Irish couple caught in a labyrinth of love and hate, in a tom nation that publicly mirrors their private strife. Jack, a playwright and fisherman just off the sea, is pining for his girlfriend Catherine and driving himself mad with drink and waiting. Catherine refuses to see him again unless he's sober, but by the time he is, it's too late: She won't take him back. In the middle section of the book, Jack tells Catherine's story before returning to more of his own drunken ramblings. Catherine was born in Northern Ireland to an aging Presbyterian policeman and his Republican, and Methodist, young wife. Jonathan Adams, the father, was a failed minister who joined the Royal Ulster Constabulary. Ulster has been changing around Adams--his quiet country police station has been transformed into a gated fortress--and one day, while assigned to keep the peace during a Republican demonstration, he instead became enraged at a protester, wielded his baton, and instigated a bloody riot. Soon after, his Catholic friend and neighbor hanged himself from a tree. Shocked by what he had become, and contributed to, Adams succumbed to his wife's pleas to buy an old lightkeeper's house on the barren west coast of Ireland as their retreat from violence and the site of Jonathan's attempts at redemption. Jonathan died when Catherine was a young woman, and, meeting Jack Ferris, she quickly shifted her emotional attentions to him. Their relationship became as obsessive as her father's faith, and, stewed in liquor and paranoia, their destruction, like Ireland's, seemed driven by its own startling momentum. Catherine's story is the heart of this novel, with Jack's drunken bookends--overlong and adding little--surrounding it. Healy, however, does have an encompassing eye, and a terrific sense of the Irish people and their great good humor. An epic and compelling lament that just goes on a little too long.

Pub Date: Nov. 1st, 1995
ISBN: 0156005824
Page count: 416pp
Publisher: Viking