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Molloy's first novel is a lively, irreverent picaresque about growing up poor and Catholic in Northern Ireland during the 50's and 60's. The mordant, fiesty narrator, Ann Elizabeth McGlone, is born into a large working-class family in Derry and grows up surrounded by poverty and intersectarian strife--her parish priest attacks Protestants from the pulpit, and her own father spends four years in jail as a suspected member of the IRA. When she reaches her late teens, she's sent to work in a factory, but can't stand the drudgery, and the mindless girl talk, so instead (over the banshee wails of her mother) enters a convent--but she makes the nuns so crazy that they thrust her unceremoniously back into the outside world as soon as they get a chance. By this time her mother has gotten used to bragging about her daughter the nun, and is so enraged at Ann's ouster that she has her committed to an institution, where she's given electric-shock treatments and thousands of pills. When she finally gets out, Ann leaves home straightaway and heads for Belfast to start a new and hopefully happier life; she lands a plum job as a machinist in a factory, only to find that the place is full of rabid Protestants and signs saying: THE ONLY GOOD CATHOLIC IS A DEAD CATHOLIC (she escapes only by dint of fervently denying her faith). After a hilarious stint as housekeeper to a vain and pompous priest (she drinks up all his whiskey and makes late-night phone calls to Australia), Ann becomes politicized and is badly beaten after a 1968 march calling for Catholic unity. Finally deciding that ""me an' Belfast weren't made for each other,"" she goes to Dublin and in the end leaves ""the compellin"" god-forsaken shores"" of Ireland altogether. In sum: a bitterly funny Irish version of a talking-blues song (told in occasionally difficult working-class dialect) that at its best brings to mind the classic of the genre, Flann O'Brien's The Poor Mouth.

Pub Date: July 7th, 1986
Publisher: Persea