Hogan's The Ikon Maker (p. 876) was a book that fairly hugged itself--it was so tight, local, and sad. This new one casts a wider net. James McMahon, the narrator, can't lose the memory of the Russian-born mother of his best friend, Liam Dehilly; the independence of her disturbed spirit--she was a young suicide--seems to hang over all the life he's ever known in his native Ireland. The pearl of that life came during college, when James, Liam, and a girl named Sarah established ""an affair, a triangular relationship, one buried, unspoken but always there, a mystery, a voice in itself telling of some extraordinary dance, some exciting welcome into a world of love."" Such clause-heavy sentences tell the whole story here, which continues as James (against the background of the Irish Republic's parochial naivetâ€š in the 1950s) watches his friends grow up and go away; Liam to California and spiritual fads; Sarah to be a very white nun in black Africa; James into bored success as a lawyer. It isn't until Liam returns to become a monk on an island that James can come to terms with adulthood--he sees in Liam's act a serenity, an abnegation, that balances all his (and Ireland's) anxieties. Rich material; but somehow it's dissipated in Hogan's unsensual, lugubrious, almost joyless approach, his one- or two-sentence paragraphs, the constant, iron rhythm of his prose. Again, then, as with The Ikon Maker, talented work that doesn't quite connect.