An intimate, humane portrait of a working-class Irish woman’s pleasures and struggles in her first year of sobriety.
Doyle fans first met Paula Spencer in Doyle’s critically acclaimed novel, The Woman Who Walked Into Doors (1996), the story of Paula’s alcoholism, her marriage to the wild, abusive Charlo and their four children. This book opens eight years later, on Paula’s 47th birthday. Charlo is dead, two of Paula’s children are grown and have children of their own and Paula is four months and five days sober. Some big things happen in this novel—fights, sickness, reconciliation—but they are not the story’s focus. Instead, Doyle employs his trademark narrative style, an almost exclusive use of dialogue and fragmented inner monologue, to convey the thousand tiny moments of despair and triumph that make up Paula’s daily life. To the middle- class observer, Paula lives a drab, working-class existence cleaning houses and stadiums in Dublin. But to be an ordinary person is a source of great joy to Paula. Like a woman who has returned from the verge of death, she can’t get over her luck. That she has money in her pocket and the occasional day off from work, that she is able to savor good coffee in the Italian café in her neighborhood where, she’s pleased to note, they trust her not to run off without paying—all are sources of joy. “It’s grand,” Paula says. As she gradually builds a new life, it’s a phrase she uses again and again.
Profound, subtle and unsentimental—the latest from a master back in top form.