The horror of Ireland’s never-ending Troubles assumes human form in this vividly dramatic (if ill-proportioned) third novel
by the versatile Moran (The World I Made for Her, 1998, etc.).
Narrator Una Moss is a young woman growing up in the village of Cobh, not far from Cork, raised there by her roughhewn
"grandda" Rawney after her parents" death in an automobile accident that many (including Rawney) have hinted may have been
a politically motivated murder. As indifferent as she can be to the nearby specter of insurgent Ulster, Una attends college in Cork
as a medical student (her bills paid by her father’s trust fund), hangs about local pubs with her fun-loving, foulmouthed girlfriends
(including sexually forthright Fallon and IRA devotee Collie), and keeps her wits essentially about her—though she wryly calls
herself "fortune’s fool"—until she meets and slowly surrenders herself to Aidan Ferrel, a handsome draughtsman whose gentle
demeanor suggests he may be as apolitical as she is. Una’s affair with Aidan coincides exactly with her stunned experience of
political violence at its cruellest, and her disillusioning discoveries about both her father and grandda. In actuality, the seemingly
perfect Aidan has always been something of a ’shadow man." Hence derives the story’s bitter and rather hurried denouement
(most readers will foresee it early on) in which Aidan proves not to be the man Una had imagined, a recognition that thrusts her
headlong into the context of enmity and terrorism she has tried to distance herself from.
The very real strengths here are Moran’s forceful characterizations of the sentient, credibly intelligent Una and the intriguing,
soft-spoken Aidan. But the story that Moran plunges his characters into is overfamiliar and marred by an ending that rushes Una
to judgment, leaving the sense that there must be even more to her tale than we’ve been told.