Multiple generations of an Irish family reluctantly come together to support each other through a summer of trials.
Multigeneration novels can sometimes feel too full of characters, heavy in a way that the plot cannot move beyond. Such is not the case in MacMahon’s hands, as she deftly manages a shifting third-person perspective to give the reader a measure of insight into each of the central characters. Dierdre and Manus MacEntee, though technically still married, have lived separately since Manus left her to move in with Sam, a man more than 20 years his junior. Each in their 80s, Dierdre and Manus are grappling with end-of-life issues, as Dierdre dreads getting older and facing the inevitable bodily failures, and Manus is now a full-time caregiver for Sam, who is increasingly losing his memory. Yet their children are also each at turning points in their lives as well: columnist and news anchor Alma is left traumatized after a physical attack, and her ex-husband seeks sanctuary at her house after an embarrassing political blunder; Acushla decides to publicly reveal a long-held secret despite the consequences for her politician husband (brother to Alma’s ex); and Macdara contemplates whether to risk seeking feedback on his secret life’s work. The novel moves along swiftly yet never feels rushed as long-held grudges, rifts between siblings, and tensions between romantic partners and adult children and their parents come to a head over the course of a summer. Though some characters are given more attention than others, MacMahon explores the motivation of each with humor and affection though never sentimentality. Further, although the characters address weighty issues, the novel never sinks into moodiness. As its title suggests, this book will be ideally suited for summer vacation.
Engaging and immersive, this novel welcomes readers into the fascinating, dysfunctional heart of the MacEntee family.