Borrowing from James Joyce -- even if you were born in Ireland -- is not advisable in a first novel. McNamara lifts a bit of character here, plot there, themes, stylistic devices. . . . The archetype of Thady Quinlan, university-educated eldest son of a pigheaded sandcotter and a longsuffering overprotective Irish madonna, who returns to Limerick for his father's funeral after a ten-year ""exile"" in America, is as obvious as the resemblance is superficial. There are bawdy jokes juxtaposed with Latinate Church language and, more painfully, a contrived stream of Irish consciousness (""My sperm. My blood. My son. But he was linked to me by more than that. All the past. All gone before. Everything to come. Tied to him in an inexorable silver call of race and mosaic of memory."") This prodigal son visits the local pubs, is mocked at a brothel, falls in love and seduces a barmaid, quarrels with his working class siblings who cling to the peasant values of the old sow Ireland, learns from the family solicitor that ""old Da"" has left his estate to the Church in a last minute hell-fearing fit of repentance, is refused a position as a master at his old school because he has not studied Irish language and legends and because he is an apostate. Longing for his simple barmaid, Thady returns to Nebraska -- now more outcast than exile. The resemblance is more unfortunate since McNamara clearly has a talent of his own -- a good ear for spoken language, an eye for quirks of character, and a particular sympathy for the minds of his female characters -- one thing Joyce never had. This is a little novel and an unambitious one, but might have been respectable on its own terms if McNamara had had the courage of his own originality.