Of this hu­mor­ous Hiberno-gal­lic thriller

Sunday Independent (Ireland) - Living - - BOOKS - HI­LARY A WHITE

not wholly ob­sessed with her past.

What changes things is a chance en­counter with a vaguely fa­mil­iar man whom she dubs “Ea­gle­back”, which at once con­sumes her. Af­ter spot­ting him in a store, she be­gins to stalk him over the course of a sum­mer, con­vinced that there is a con­nec­tion between this man and who she once was.

The ab­sence of clut­ter in her mind where her mem­o­ries once sat has al­lowed for a state of height­ened sen­sory aware­ness in the girl.

She drinks in the world and the peo­ple around her, at times try­ing to link what is be­fore her eyes, what is over­heard or what is picked up in a fa­cial ex­pres­sion, with ten­u­ous frag­ments of a past. This feel­ing of try­ing to hit a mov­ing tar­get gives One Star Awake a Te­flon-coated at­mos­phere through­out that sup­plies it with thriller DNA.

Un­der­stand­ably, given the au­thor’s back­ground, the trauma at the heart of the young woman’s predica­ment is teased out with a cin­e­matic rhythm.

Mee­han grad­u­ally adds lay­ers of pad­ding to this husk of a hu­man be­ing with­out ever hav­ing to re­sort to trite re­veals. He sit­u­ates char­ac­ters care­fully around her — her boss, a lover, a psy­chother­a­pist, her par­ents — and then lets them muddy the wa­ters in their own ways, as mo­tives and in­cli­na­tions toy with the truth.

You may pick up quiet rip­ples of rep­e­ti­tion and a de­cid­edly el­lip­ti­cal nar­ra­tive as a knot in the mys­tery is loos­ened.

The bring­ing to­gether of the Gal­lic and the Hiber­nian — the girl’s par­ents do a size­able amount of the funny-bone tick­ling — is one of the stronger cards in Mee­han’s hand, as is the waft­ing, muzzy-headed de­pic­tion of the pro­tag­o­nist’s cog­ni­tive land­scape.

If you plough through, how­ever, ex­pect­ing a rhyth­mic un­fold­ing of the mys­tery to tran­spire in front of you, you may be dis­ap­pointed by One Star Awake.

An im­mersed, free-flow­ing headspace is re­quired to get the most out of this novel, one where, a lit­tle like our hero, try­ing too hard may just serve to blur the mar­gins of per­cep­tion.

It is in­ter­est­ing that it should ar­rive so close to Sean O’reilly’s Lev­i­ta­tion, which em­ploys a sim­i­larly frac­tured en­ergy. A ma­jor dif­fer­ence is the af­fec­tion Mee­han has for the lost girl at the heart of his tale, and while she can cut a jagged dash, sav­ing her hu­man­ity is al­ways Mee­han’s cen­tral con­cern.

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