THE HUNGRY GRASS by Richard Power


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The last two weeks in the life of an irascible, isolated, aging village priest in Ireland gives substance to the sadness and beauty of an old land caught at the edge of change--the approaching dissolution of old ways and the memories of old men. The death of Father Tom Conroy, son of an eminent family of landowners, was an irritating and untimely happening, ruining forever the happy annual reunion of diocesan priests. Unaccommodating Tom always was refusing ordained ways. He terrified good establishment priests like Father Mahon, who found to his horror that Tom had chosen him to dispose of the Conroy effects. Among the effects in Tom's dirty, disheveled residence is a mysterious cache of pound notes. This legacy to Mahon, ""who believed so implicitly in the system,"" is another bitter joke of Father Tom's last days, as the ill and often bewildered priest savagely calls forth the past, a past which pours venom on a dubious present. And intermittently Father Tom fumbles to cope with this present: the zealous young priests determined to substitute industry for thatch; the somehow all-important fate of a fine pony; familial reminders of lost chances to speak out, render justice. Returning from England where he vainly rooted for a thread of family continuity in his dead brother's sons, Father Tom confronts his imminent death and shrives himself of the burden of possessions, buried memories and silence: ""Hadn't he had enough silence in his time?"" Ornery, sardonic, with a captive fury marked by his times and his pride, Father Tom is not easily forgotten.

Pub Date: May 19th, 1969
Publisher: Dial