Verdict: Stunningly constructed, profound, sad, and wonderful.
My rating: 4 out of 5 stars.
Published by Transworld Publishing, March 22nd 2018
Genre: Fiction, Literary Fiction.
Farouk’s country has been torn apart by war.
Lampy’s heart has been laid waste by Chloe.
John’s past torments him as he nears his end.
The refugee. The dreamer. The penitent. From war-torn Syria to small-town Ireland, three men, scarred by all they have loved and lost, are searching for some version of home. Each is drawn towards a powerful reckoning, one that will bring them together in the most unexpected of ways.
Do you know these books that make you fall in love with an author’s writing in a way that makes you want to read everything they have ever written? This was a book like that; it blew me away. I adore Donal Ryan’s way with words and the obvious care he takes to construct perfect sentences.
This is more a collection of short stories but so much more than that in a way (and I say that as somebody who obviously loves short stories). Ryan tells the stories of three widely different men; the only thing they have in common is a deep unhappiness with their lives. All three of them are fully fleshed-out, flawed characters that were a joy to spend time with. This is even more impressive when considering how few pages Ryan uses for his portraits.
My favourite part of this book was the first: I adored everything about the way Ryan tells Farouk’s story. Here the language is the most whimsical and powerful, whereas later it becomes more understated (which works brilliantly as well, I might add, I just happened to adore beyond measure the beauty of the first part). Farouk is also the most sympathetic of the men and the one whose story seems most tragic. I do love how Ryan allows this story to be as tragic as it needs to while still offering glimpses of hope.
Beyond being a perfect snapshot of these men’s lives, this is also an ode to storytelling in its different incarnations. Be it the fairy tales Farouk and his wife tell their daughter or the stories of pub life in a small town that connects Lampy and his granddad, Donal Ryan shows how stories are the glue that keep us together. Which I obviously love.
First sentence: “Let me tell you something about trees.”
I received an arc of this book courtesy of NetGalley and Transworld Publishing in exchange for an honest review.
PS: Please do tell me which of Ryan’s books I should read next!