Irish author Ryan's debut takes readers to the “heart” of hardscrabble life in Ireland in the era after the economic boom and bust of 2008. The novel received Book of the Year honors at the Irish Book Awards.
Reminiscent of Faulkner’s As I Lay Dying, this book gives readers a story—or rather stories—told from multiple perspectives, each chapter using a different voice. The initial encounter is with Bobby Mahon, a builder who’s been burned by the economic machinations of Pokey Burke. Bobby is married to Triona and is generally looked up to by everyone as an honest man, showing rare integrity in a world of rascals and swindlers. Later, we find out that he had been having an affair with Réaltín, though Triona was so in love that his peccadillos didn’t matter. At the core of Bobby’s existence is his hatred for his father, a man who frittered away the family inheritance and constantly belittled his son. Through other characters later in the novel, readers find out that Bobby has supposedly murdered the old man. Is it true? The composite picture from these memories and anecdotes is bleak indeed. Readers learn of Réaltín’s groping by her egregious boss; Timmy’s having been flattened by a shovel by an irate victim of Pokey’s real estate fraud; Seanie Shaper’s constant desire for women; a reminiscence from beyond the grave by Bobby’s father; and finally there's Triona’s calm, earth-mother voice and a moving meditation that ends, “What matters only love?”
Disturbing and unnerving but ultimately beautiful.