Reviews provided by Syndetics
Library Journal Review
It is the early 2000s in Ireland. The Celtic Tiger has vanished along with the country's prosperity, and Pokey Burke, the boss of a building crew in an unnamed, rural Irish town, has absconded with his employees' pensions. Burke's foreman, Bobby Mahon, contemplates murdering his father as he ekes out a living by taking odd jobs. The town both respects and resents Bobby, for he possesses a capacity for suffering that fills their hearts and yet makes them feel small. After Burke disappears, other tragedies further rend the social fabric of the community, and these events break hearts and revive old hurts. Are these crimes random? Or is Bobby somehow connected? Either way, Mahon's neighbors and friends condemn him with gossip in an attempt to save themselves from death. VERDICT Altogether 21 different characters narrate 21 chapters to relate Bobby Mahon's fall from grace, with Ryan showing himself to be a virtuoso stylist as he credibly conveys the viewpoints of men and women of all ages in language distinct from one section to the next. Winner of Ireland's Newcomer of the Year and Book of the Year, this startling debut reads like a modern Irish twist on William Faulkner's As I Lay Dying.-John G. Matthews, Washington State Univ. Libs., Pullman (c) Copyright 2014. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Publishers Weekly Review
The winner of the Guardian First Book Award features a chorus of voices telling the story of an Irish village undergoing a post-recession crisis and evokes Faulkner's As I Lay Dying, right down to a section narrated by a recently deceased character. At the center is Bobby Mahon, a building foreman who discovers, as the book opens, that his boss has "shafted" him and his coworkers, cheating them of a pension and disappearing after the housing boom goes bust. Bobby's decency is admired by everyone, and it underpins the novel: the belief in Bobby's good nature seems to unite these people, to serve as a salve on the wounds of economic collapse. As rumors spread that Bobby is having an affair and that he has killed his loathed father, and as a child disappears, the villagers will need to marshal their faith in him. Equal parts mournful and hopeful, the book pays keen attention to the ways lives coalesce and fall apart in time of personal and national crises. Even as some of the voices seem extraneous, added for color but little else, Ryan has created a faithful portrait of a time and place in his debut novel, but his truest accomplishment lies in the fact that, though the individual accounts add up to a greater whole, each story stands on its own. (Mar.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
Ryan's debut novel explores the devastating aftermath of Ireland's recent economic collapse. In a small, predominately working-class town, a community comes apart at the seams following the failure of a crooked construction company (the town's primary source of employment). People turn on one another as they struggle to find meaning in the new reality of material scarcity and joblessness. Bitterness and mistrust rule the day, as old scores are settled and long-simmering tensions rise to the surface. A different character narrates each chapter, and the same incidents and memories are viewed through different lenses. Woven through each chapter is the story of Bobby, a well-respected, hardworking father and husband whose current family drama is revealed in bits and pieces through the eyes of the various characters. Although the subject matter is overwhelmingly bleak, the prose is lyrical, and the voices are authentic. Flashes of humor and tenderness shine through as well, as the helplessness and frustration of an era is effectively captured through the lives of these small-town residents.--Price, Kerri Copyright 2010 Booklist
Kirkus Book Review
Irish author Ryan's debut takes readers to the "heart" of hardscrabble life in Ireland in the era after the economic boom and bust of 2008. The novel received Book of the Year honors at the Irish Book Awards. Reminiscent of Faulkner's As I Lay Dying, this book gives readers a story--or rather stories--told from multiple perspectives, each chapter using a different voice. The initial encounter is with Bobby Mahon, a builder who's been burned by the economic machinations of Pokey Burke. Bobby is married to Triona and is generally looked up to by everyone as an honest man, showing rare integrity in a world of rascals and swindlers. Later, we find out that he had been having an affair with Raltn, though Triona was so in love that his peccadillos didn't matter. At the core of Bobby's existence is his hatred for his father, a man who frittered away the family inheritance and constantly belittled his son. Through other characters later in the novel, readers find out that Bobby has supposedly murdered the old man. Is it true? The composite picture from these memories and anecdotes is bleak indeed. Readers learn of Raltn's groping by her egregious boss; Timmy's having been flattened by a shovel by an irate victim of Pokey's real estate fraud; Seanie Shaper's constant desire for women; a reminiscence from beyond the grave by Bobby's father; and finally there's Triona's calm, earth-mother voice and a moving meditation that ends, "What matters only love?" Disturbing and unnerving but ultimately beautiful.]] Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.