Twelve-year-old Mary O’Hara is surrounded by good-humored women…her mum at home, her mum’s mum, who is dying in Dublin’s Sacred Heart Hospital, and her mum’s mum’s mum, who has just materialized as a ghost on her street.
That’s four generations of Irish women, all whirling about in some state of consciousness or another, and it’s enough to make Mary dizzy. Mary is a cheeky girl, like many almost-teenagers, but she’s levelheaded enough to embrace the ghostly visits from her great-grandmother Tansey, who looks young but “talks old” because she died at age 25 in 1928. Tansey’s spirit is sticking around for her dying daughter, Mary’s granny, to reassure her “it’ll all be grand” in the great beyond and, as it turns out, to join her family for one last tearful, mirthful midnight road trip. Doyle divides up the novel by character, giving readers first-hand glimpses into the nature of each woman through time. In a lovely, lilting Irish dialect, he deftly explores the common threads of their lives through story and memory, from family-owned racing greyhounds to the traumatic dropping of an egg. On the subject of mortality, Mary says, “…it just seems mean.” Her mother agrees. “It does seem mean. Especially when it’s someone you love.” Indeed.
A warm, witty, exquisitely nuanced multigenerational story. (Fiction. 10-14)