Saturday, 10 February 2007

Billy, Come Home by Mary Rose Callaghan

Billy, Come Home
Mary Rose Callaghan
(Brandon €14.99)

FOR a while a couple of years ago, it seems the ads were pasted up all over Ireland – ads like: ‘Have you seen Billy Reilly? He left home on 25 September, wearing a pair of blue denim jeans…’

When the person wasn’t found, there was usually a rumour. “There’s more to that than you might think...”

Mary Rose Callaghan has made a novel of the themes these fluttering papers aroused, themes of loss, guilt, secrecy and otherness amid the safe middle classes of Dublin.

In her story, a schizophrenic man is fingered by locals when a young Traveller is stabbed to death.

Angie, the suspect’s sister and the first-person narrator, has a personality as beige as muesli – she’s even thinking of moving to the Church of Ireland, not because of religious passion but because the vicar’s nice.

The schizophrenic goes missing, the Guards find few leads – the usual thing. And everyone ‘knows’ what really happened.

Callaghan’s mutedly funny descriptions follow the suspect’s mousy sister as her life comes to pieces and she discovers her courage.

In a story that raises telling questions about the tigerish new Ireland, Callaghan uses the motif of the missing and the wrong to riff on a society gone soulless.


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