The poignancy of life worn down at the elbows, Trevor’s signature note, gently animates another masterpiece.
Until Florian Kilderry, ineffectual photographer sporting a loud necktie, bicycled into Rathmoye, a town where “nothing happened,” Ellie Dillahan never knew she didn’t love her husband. “A young Catholic girl from the hills,” she’s the sort of secretly budding wallflower that Trevor (Cheating at Canasta: Stories, 2007, etc.) typically invests somehow with magic. Ordinary character and circumstance akilter make up his métier, and Rathmoye’s chockablock with both: a Joycean funeral, middle-aged siblings sharing telepathy, a centenarian belting IRA songs from his deathbed, a homeless madman hoarding the useless papers of a long-penniless blueblood family. Inside Ellie, quiet foundling darling of the nuns who reared her, burns long-hidden longing. A grateful contentment grounds her marriage to Dillahan, an aging farmer haunted by the deaths of his child and first wife in an accident he feels he caused. But passion? None. So when Florian turns friendly, she imagines this child of artists, reader of Fitzgerald and Dostoevsky, heir to an 18-room manse, as a romantic, exotic deliverer. And he does turn tender, drawn to Ellie’s pathos, charm and homespun toughness. The attraction simmers; the pair begin to dream of each other, and village tongues start wagging. But Florian withholds a secret: The mansion’s a wreck, he’s buried in debt and only a passport away from Ireland will resurrect him. She fantasizes fire and sweetness; he frets about her with kindness and pity. Pulled between duty and beauty, Ellie is terrified that decent, dear Dillahan will detect her, and agonizes that her soul, nurtured by the nuns into vigilant virtue, will be lost. Will she be lost yet worse should she fail to dare?
An archetypal Irish love story and a perfect novel—sweet, desperate, sad, unforgettable.