The “other woman” surfaces at last and with a vengeance in this tour-de-force sequel to the author's applauded family memoir, 44: Dublin Made Me (1999).
Former director of Dublin’s renowned Abbey Theater, Sheridan can add his name to that list of Irish writers in whose hands the English language plays like a harp: endlessly yet effortlessly lyrical. The soaring tenets of the Catholic faith versus the reality of what flesh is heir to would be grist enough for this kind of talent, but in Sheridan's case, a triangular romance engendered by a paterfamilias with pretensions of practical bigamy enters the mix and endures as the boy becomes a man. Following his father's death, Sheridan revisits his own coming of age in the context of unraveling and coming to terms with the bizarre relationship of his parents and the indefatigable Doris, a wraith of an Englishwoman with a supernatural sense of commitment. Of his iron-willed mother, Sheridan writes: “Ma knew instinctively that to criticize Da was to make herself vulnerable. Instead, she welcomed Doris into the bosom of her family, from where she could keep a close eye on her.” Much of the narrative concerns discovery of the true Da, viewed through the author's eyes and those of the two women he adored, betrayed, and inspired. The enduring tone, a juxtaposition of tenderness and hilarity, is crystallized at Da's wake, where the author finds himself “celebrating with laughter in a place designed for tears. I had never felt such sadness and joy side by side, never thought that loss could be so funny, never realized that laughter could be so spiritual.” Sheridan's ear for priceless Anglo-Irish dialogue provides the engine that pulls each scenario onstage and off, and his dramatic pacing is so expert that more critical readers may wonder how closely he’s hewed to his story’s factual basis. Everyone else will be too busy turning the pages.
An outrageous, scandalously good-humored tribute from a loving son.