Irish novelists are rocking the publishing world this year, and Norton’s debut novel is among the best of them. My great thanks go to Net Galley and Atria Books, who provided me a free and early read in exchange for this honest review. You should get it and read it. Atria will release it August 1, 2017.
Our protagonist is Sergeant PJ Collins; the setting is the tiny Irish town of Duneen. PJ is ecstatic when a corpse is uncovered at a local construction site. At last, something noteworthy has occurred in his sleepy village, and he can’t wait to tell everybody. He starts with his housekeeper, Mrs. Meany:
“I’m after finding a body.”
“A human body!”
He had waited his whole life to utter those words, and it felt as good as he had always imagined.
“God spare us!” Mrs. Meany gasped.
The villagers are convinced this is the body of Tommy Burke, a man loved ardently by two local women. Evelyn has never married; she and her two sisters still live in the family manse in which they were raised. Is Evelyn bat-shit crazy, as some people suggest, or is she merely frustrated and lonely?
Brid also loved Tommy. They were to be married, but he upped and disappeared just before the wedding. She is currently locked in a joyless union; she and her husband remain together for the sake of the children and the farm. It isn’t easy.
And then there’s our protagonist, PJ, who is graying at the temples, never having known love. He hasn’t even had a girlfriend. He went on a date, once, and the girl guffawed when he wasn’t able to situate his large self into a theater seat to view the movie. That was enough for him. He’s married to his work, and she’s a lonely mistress. At the end of the day there’s only Mrs. Meany, his aging housekeeper, and she will have to retire, sooner or later.
But things are about to change.
UK readers may have been drawn to this novel by its author, who is also a celebrity and has a television show, but I had never heard of him. I won’t forget him now.
One cautionary note: there’s some sharp, dark humor involving religion that will make this a poor fit for some readers. I loved it, but the devout may not. There’s also a fair bit of bawdy language.
For those that enjoy dark humor, this one is hard to beat. As an added bonus, it is ultimately uplifting, and reminds us that one is never too old to find love in this world.