A bookish young woman must make decisions about her future in this novel set in Ireland.
Kenney’s debut begins with a prologue. We see the series of tragedies that has left a 2-year-old and her uncle alone at the Leeside Pub. By Chapter 1, Siobhan is in her late 20s, still living with her Uncle Kee, and now working at the Leeside. Siobhan and her uncle have a close relationship and share a passion for Irish folklore and poetry, but Siobhan is otherwise withdrawn. She serves meat pies and drinks to the regulars and spends her free time writing poems that she does not share with anyone. It quickly becomes clear that literature is nearly all she has known of life. When Tim Ferris, an American professor of Irish studies, arrives at the pub, he ushers in a wave of brand-new experiences. Siobhan’s extreme naiveté makes her a mystery even to herself. Through the course of the novel, she feels emotions like excitement and grief as if for the first time. Her small stature is frequently emphasized, and her one close friend wonders aloud if she may be a fairy from the myths she loves so much. But, despite the improbable confluence of circumstances, the novel stays grounded in reality. Siobhan learns the truth of the past her uncle has kept from her and experiences the pain of love and loss. She seems at least somewhat aware of her odd trajectory into adulthood, writing at one point, “I’m not sure if growing up all at once at 27 is easier or harder than doing it bit by bit.” The other characters in Siobhan’s life are rendered with a similar flatness that makes them identifiable and, at times, charming but still unrealistic.
A late coming-of-age story with a far-fetched plot.