Irish stories, by turns subdued, witty and raucous.
A world of wastrels, schemers and ne’er-do-wells inhabits McCormack’s pubs, prisons and homes. “The Man from God Knows Where” introduces us to Mark Hanlon and his fragmented family—a recently returned brother, long thought dead; a dying father full of recriminations for both his sons; and a pious mother who, unlike the rest of the family, still believes in the power of prayer. Family life here is filled with bitterness and suppressed rage—and also with occasional glimpses into interpersonal understanding. The genuinely comic “The Last Thing We Need” features a long dialogue between a sergeant and a young prison guard who's been on the job for only eight weeks. The sergeant is outraged that they’re in charge of seemingly the only prisoner in Ireland who has not written a childhood memoir. “Of One Mind” introduces us to a father who disappoints his 8-year-old son by not getting him to a school field trip in time, and the father realizes that “feelings like [his son’s disappointment] only come man-sized, brutally disproportionate to the cause, never calibrated to the dimensions of a child’s world.” Later in the same story, in a scene both comic and touching, the son becomes convinced he will grow up to become a serial killer because he comes from a broken home and also wets his bed, two classic symptoms of killers-to-be.
All 12 stories in this collection glisten with insight and poignancy.