Books

By Billy O’Cal­laghan

RTÉ Guide - - Contents -

My Coney Is­land Baby

(Jonathan Cape)

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.

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