It's no spoiler to say that Ireland is so wracked with explosive violence or that Frank will be a guiding, paternal figure in Michael’s life—in fact, as McCann makes clear, it will be Frank who eventually impresses Michael into undertaking the 2016 attack. Young Michael faces horrors and loss that will rattle readers, but the tension threading through the collection concerns why his 41-year-old self will eventually attempt a bombing, especially when, early on, an attack tears his family apart.
That story illuminates Michael’s mother’s own secrets and hardiness, her drive to do what needs to be done, no matter how distasteful. Much of McCann unfolds from Michael’s perspective, as he comes of age, grows strong under Frank’s eye, and fights the Russians in Afghanistan with the Mujahadeen. But Benacre’s keenly interested in the context of that life, offering a clutch of stories that read as sharp colloquies between characters facing the news of a changing world—and how they must change with it. Readers see Frank’s response to many epochal events, with the most harrowing on September 11, 2001: “these are the lengths we’re going to have to go to. You get it?”
Takeaway: A novel in stories tracing the life of a “cleanskin” IRA bomber and a half century of fractious history.
Comparable Titles: Eoin McNamee’s Resurrection Man, Wendy Erskine’s Sweet Home.
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