Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Long Time No See by Dermot Healy

Dermot Healy. Long Time No See. Viking, 2012.

I loved this book, and, after having put aside a couple of books without finishing them, it reminded me about how wonderful it can be to read an excellent novel. This story takes place in an Irish coastal village in 2006. In many ways it could take place at any time, but we are reminded from time to time that it is in our own time as mobile phones are mentioned or a recent popular song. The narrator is a young man who is just finishing school and preparing for college. We are not privy to his thoughts, it more as though we are hearing what he hears and seeing what he sees. The novel has plot elements, but it isn't plot driven. Overall, we realize what doesn't change with the times is the importance of community, friendship, family, and caring about others. This is not a sentimental book with a simplified message.

Philip, or Mister Psyche as he is called by his granduncle, is spending his summer picking up work around the village, assisting his father on jobs, and looking out for his aged granduncle and his granduncle's aged friend, The Bird. In his spare time, he is building a wall with stones from the ruins of an nearby ancient monastery. Fierce storms, long hours of work, concern and worry for failing friends and family members, loneliness  are all part of this novel. The old are lonely in their old age, the many foreigners, particularly from Eastern Europe, are lonely in their distance from home, the young are lonely as they contemplate leaving home or the loss of a friend. But as Philip tells the story, everyone is cared for by someone else--it comes naturally and is a way of life.

The narrative style is interesting and takes a few pages to settle into ... because we're thrown into the story without context. It isn't exactly stream of consciousness, but it isn't a straightforward telling of a tale. Details emerge and add to the overall impression creating a complete picture. I will look forward to other novels by Dermot Healy.

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