MINER'S HILL by Michael O'Malley


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20 miles from Pittsburgh lies the dingy steel mill town of Brasston where the Irish immigrant families swarm during the early 2nd World War years; here the Riley son goes along on an uneasy path to the priesthood, experiencing ardors of adolescence. And this is the theme and setting of Michael O'Malley's first novel, a work at once both overlong and overwrought. Yet it also possesses a descriptive quality very like the lyric intensity of Joyce's Portrait of the Artist and conveys the spiritual and sexual traumas of its schoolboy here with truth, temperance and compassion. Pat early in life has been destined for the seminary; it is his mother's devout dream to see him rise above shanty status and it is his own fate to meet a girl from the neighborhood who tries to bring him love. Their thwarted and essentially innocent affair is beautifully played out, especially in the ""shocker"" scene where Leila desperately and pathetically reveals her sex and her need. Picnics, wakes, carnivals, woodland petting parties and the drowning of Pat's baby brother complete the lower class aura of guilt, sin and parental misunderstanding. Maudlin and muddled at its worst, quite honest and searchingly tender at its best. A draw.

Publisher: Harper