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THE VAN by Roddy Doyle

THE VAN

By Roddy Doyle

Pub Date: Aug. 1st, 1992
ISBN: 0140260021
Publisher: Viking

A beaten-up van dispensing fish and chips, not some clearing in the deep woods, is the setting for Doyle's warm, humorous, and cleareyed look at male friendship--in this his third book featuring the irrepressible Rabbitte family of Dublin (The Commitments, 1989; The Snapper, see above). When Jimmy Rabbitte, Sr., loses his job, he tries to make the best of it, but what he misses most are his evenings in the local pub with his friends ("it wasn't the pints Jimmy, Sr., loved...it was the lads here, the laughing. This was what he loved"). He joins the library, develops a taste for Dickens, and takes care of granddaughter Gina; but when his best friend Bimbo is "made redundant," he's delighted because now, "only with the two of them, they could do plenty of things." And when Bimbo decides to buy a rusting old chipper van, Jimmy accepts his offer to join him in the venture. After much effort, the van is cleaned up, recipes are tested, and the two men are set to sell fish, chips, and burgers to football crowds and pub-goers. Despite any certification from the Health Department, they are a great success, but then the football season ends, business falters, and Jimmy, Sr., misses the fun of the old days--"He'd been starting to think that Bimbo had lost his sense of humor from hanging over the deep-fat fryer too long." Meanwhile, Bimbo, egged on by entrepreneurial wife Maggie, becomes bossy and assertive. An encounter with officialdom provokes a crisis in their already fraying friendship, and Bimbo drives the van into the sea; but Jimmy, not so sure the friendship can be restored, returns wet and exhausted to wife Veronica: "Give us a hug, Veronica, will yeh...I need a hug." Aa usual, Doyle has got it all just right--this is what friendships and families are really like: stubborn, contrary, loving, and, aware of life's absurdities, always ready to be cheered by a good laugh. Vintage Doyle.