In Cranny’s (The Storm, 2001, etc.) latest novel, an old Irish man reminisces about the mythical happenings in his family’s home village.
When young Jack Gogarty accompanies his aunt Lill, a nun, from Dublin to West Wicklow, he expects nothing more than to spend a summer with his distant relatives, including his uncle Frank; Frank’s sister, Nan; and his father’s aunt Maggie. As Jack moves through his summer, he meets a cast of village characters, including a helpful boy named Ned; Sister Augusta, who runs a nearby orphanage; and Father Vaughan, the local parish priest. He slowly realizes that the hamlet’s facade is not what it appears. For example, Nan tells him stories about fairies and of the legend of a magical white deer, who shows himself to few; it turns out that Jack can see it, but he isn’t sure if he believes in the legend. Later, he sees Ned dancing with fairies, and as he spends more time with Aunt Maggie, he realizes that she appears not to age; instead, she’s getting younger and more beautiful. Could it be that, despite the pleas, punishments and proselytizing of Father Vaughan, West Wicklow is better for never leaving its “pagan” ways behind? The author paints a wildly vivid picture of Jack’s village experience, and the descriptions become more intricate as Jack looks deeper into the town’s pagan rituals. It’s a great literary device that immerses the reader into Jack’s consciousness. Overall, the story strikes the perfect balance of fantasy and reality, juxtaposing dreamlike vignettes with everyday scenes from an Irish village, including a knock-down, drag-out football match between two rival teams. The tale also addresses questions about faith: Is one kind of faith better than another? Is it possible to consider more than one main story? As the characters grapple with these issues, readers can contemplate them as well. But although this tale is thought-provoking, it doesn’t involve heavy lifting. Instead, it’s a joyful look at what can happen when you choose to believe, to open your eyes and see what wasn’t there before.
A fun, folkloric tale of fairies, family, faith and fantasy.