By Billy O’Callaghan
My Coney Island Baby
Reviewer: Donal O’Donoghue
It opens with a bravura chapter, Chekhovian in its brittle bleakness, set on a near deserted Coney Island boardwalk in winter with a blizzard in the offing. Two middle-aged lovers, Caitlin and Michael, meet as they have done for years, a secret rendezvous far from their unhappy marriages at “a place for the damned to drift, waiting their turn at nothingness.” This opening salvo, ‘ The Boardwalk’, could be a story in itself, a chapter imbued with poignancy and portent that sets up all that follows.
Michael, an Irish emigrant, is married to Barbara . They suffered a traumatic loss and now Barbara has been diagnosed with cancer. Caitlin is a lapsed writer who once believed that writing is “about making sense of things”. Their story is redolent of Bernard McLaverty’s The Bleak Midwinter, with its dissection of a relationship, and the weight, physical and otherwise, of growing old. Yet the most affecting chapter is the one where Michael and Barbara cope with her bad news and the space between them.