The Spinning Heart by Donal Ryan
This short novel forges a grim but gripping portrait of a small village in Ireland where life was momentarily lifted by the housing boom, then dropped like a stone in the bust. Each chapter is told by a different person in town, but revolves nevertheless around Bobby, the town’s darling. Bobby is a good man in the truest sense of the word. He is respected by all for his generosity of spirit, his daunting work ethic, and certainly for his glory days as a soccer player.
The townspeople suffer mightily when the building bubble crashes and hope for a better future turns to dust. Old ways of working the dole to perfection, cruel gossiping about neighbors, depression of spirit, and crusty hearts return. For some, the only solution is to leave Ireland for work — a decision that tears the hearts of those who take great pride in dying where they were born, and where even those who’ve moved into this village from 100 miles away are derided as “blow ins.”
Against a backdrop of poverty and despair, mocked by a half-built pricey neighborhood where all but two homes are vacant and decaying, Bobby devises a plan to rebuild a construction business to provide work for himself and others. When his hated father is killed, however, Bobby topples from his throne to become the obvious suspect and hard hearts in the community secretly rejoice. Pitch perfect in its changing voices, this novel shines a light on the realities of rural, poor Ireland.
Steerforth/Random House; ISBN 978- 1-58642-224-0; $15.