In the Province of Saints
by: Thomas O'Malley
Published by: Little, Brown and Company (August 24, 2005 release date)
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Reviewed by Andrea Sisco
Michael McDonagh's theater of life is a harsh rural Ireland of the 1970s. His stage is populated with weary souls who lack hope and for whom happiness is not a part of life. They are filled with and fueled by anger, bitterness, abandonment and betrayal. And wrongs are not forgotten nor are the offenders (or their families) easily forgiven.
Michael is a quiet and thoughtful young boy whose family is tainted by the gossip (fueled by the death of neighbor Mag Delacey), that Mag and Michael's father were involved in an illicit affair. His 'da' is in America and the family is in dire straits financially. They are on the 'dole' much to Michael's embarrassment. To further complicate matters, Michael's mother, Moira, is ill with cancer and embittered by the abandonment and infidelity of her husband.
Michael wanders through life disillusioned by the father who repeatedly abandons him, a mother who at times hardly notices him and at other times seems to hate him because he reminds her of her husband. Even his extended family and later a blossoming relationship fail him.
Thomas O'Malley's In the Province of Saints is a compelling novel set in a '70's Ireland amidst the political and economic turmoil of the time. In the Province of Saints will hold your interest, make you think deeply about and explore the ideas of responsibility, loyalty, integrity and the consequences for the choices we make. While it is a well-written and fascinating story that explores the meaning of becoming a man, it is also a dark, brooding novel. Since I haven't firsthand experience—yet so many Irish novels possess this stark, dark brutal reality—I wonder if this is the way of many Irish writers and writings.
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