A bland, heart-tugging saga about a newly separated Canadian filmmaker who flees to Ireland to document the emotional lives of a small town’s residents.
A fifth of the way through this tidy, methodical tale that slips back and forth in time, the reader grows alarmed to discover there isn’t going to be much more to the plot than this: mid-40s Liselle (“Lise”) has left her husband, Stephen, and college-age son back in Toronto to clear her head after a torrid affair in Mexico with an artist, Charlie, that has altered the course of her life. Second-novelist Stonich (These Granite Islands, 2001), a capable but unstylish writer, lends no new twist to this familiar situation but, instead, gives over most of her space to the nostalgic stories Lise extracts from the inhabitants of the Irish village where she’s rented a house. At Conner’s hardware store, she meets the rheumy patriarch owner, Remy, his sassy granddaughter, Siobhan, who is dying to join her boyfriend in Boston, except that she lacks the money, and Remy’s gorgeous wife, Margaret, who all, by fits and spurts, relate their personal stories on film. A few complications develop when Lise, during a drunken evening together, gives Siobhan the money to fly to Boston, and Margaret reveals some scandalous secrets about her own courtship with Remy. Meanwhile, the story of Lise’s affair with Charlie unfolds—a sordid and sad tale no matter how sympathetic the reader feels for Lise’s icy marriage. Charlie’s shaggy attractiveness and passionate license to display his nudes of her in a gallery in her hometown only irritate but don’t sway the reader, and a pat ending (leaving the character of husband Stephen utterly undeveloped) doesn’t work. Stonich piles on added emotional appeal in the form of Lise’s childhood memories of her own philandering father.
A story, banking on sentiment and stereotype, that can’t convince.