Good writers can dismantle stereotypes.
A character like Ryan Cusack can make you confront and reassess certain beliefs you may be harbouring. McInerney’s teenage protagonist certainly made me sit up and pay attention. He’s made it safely into the catalogue of characters that have left an indelible mark on me. Some characters are blessed with such vitality that they seem to transition from page to flesh.
Drugs and brutality are bread and butter to the characters in ‘The Glorious Heresies’ whose ragged lives revolve around the highs and lows they face by the murky river Lee. McInerney’s exposé highlighted a side of Ireland that's often neglected in our modern, progressive nation - saints and scholars that we are (even though we all know an estate of the ilk where a Ryan Cusack lives be it Cork, Galway, Dublin, Limerick or Mayo). We probably turn a blind eye to such enclaves of society because we imagine that our government has it covered. We can trust in the gardaí, the reform system, the child protection services, the schools to help those who need it most…can’t we?
Not for the faint hearted, McInerney’s writing is raw and her depiction of a family battling their many demons is at times relentless. She doesn’t romanticise the squalid circumstances her characters encounter but nor does she downplay the strength of their family bonds or love.
I was left feeling a little bereft by the lack of any morally upstanding female character but then I had to check myself. Why should I expect it? Why should the female characters be the paradigm of virtue and the men get away with murder, while remaining likeable? Georgie, Tara and Maureen are silly selfish people in my opinion but they are admittedly still fighters. Fighting to keep from drowning in circumstances they have little control over.
The novel was warmly received by most of our members and even those who found the content distasteful still liked Ryan. And that says a lot. Ryan made me want to pull my hair out; I wanted to sit him down and make him see sense; I wanted to tell him he was worth something. Ryan- the drug dealer, Ryan- the criminal: he’s worth something.
Our choice for this month takes us to an estate of a different kind,
that of a crumbling rural American mansion owned by Lydia Blessing. Lydia is a privileged octogenarian whose routine is interrupted by the arrival of a baby on her doorstep. ‘Blessings’ is the name of the novel by Anna Quindlen and surely blessings come in all shapes and sizes, hopefully it will be another one for our book club!
Pop into Books@One to pick up your copies of both books.