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Set in 1970’s Tipperary, rural Ireland, Donal Ryan beautifully immerses us in this story about 3 generations of a family.

- best book club reads - 





Den scores




228 pages

Set in 1970’s Tipperary, rural Ireland, Donal Ryan immerses us in this story about 3 generations of a family. Paddy and Kit Gladney’s daughter Molly disappears aged 20 without warning, only to return unannounced five years later, at which point their lives change forever. If your club is looking for a beautifully written story of love and redemption we are sure this compassionate novel will be the perfect ticket!

At first, the reason for Moll’s departure and unexplained return can only be guessed at as “still nobody knew what all the secrecy had been for, how she’d been able to put her poor parents through all.” As Molly refuses to say a word about her disappearance Ryan captures the insular, gossip enriched life of the village “all sorts of theories swirled about, fables and yarns and tall tales and fairy stories and lascivious conjecture in some cases, darkly delicious things that could be delivered only in a whisper, from behind a shielding hand and at the point of an elbow, and met with racking guilty laughter, that filled the void where the truth would be, if they could ever get to it.”

The Den doesn’t want to spoil your enjoyment by giving away the plot, but as with 'The Spinning Heart' by Ryan and reviewed in the Den’s library, the reader is given intimate glimpses into each character’s life as they narrate the story. There are strong religious undertones - the book starts with Genesis and ends with redemption as is not until the end that we discover why Moll fled. There is also a re-written bible story shared by one of the characters.

This is a book to enjoy for its lyrical prose and poetic writing style as Ryan captures the prejudices and class divide of rural Ireland at this time. He touches on the shame of “feeling different” with a truthful compassion. But overall this novel particularly explores understanding alternative kinds of love in search for that elusive happiness. Ryan writes with a wonderful natural empathy which is a delight to share and feel.

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