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In The Province Of Saints Hardcover – 30 Sep 2005

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Little, Brown and Company; 1 edition (30 Sept. 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0316110396
  • ISBN-13: 978-0316110396
  • Product Dimensions: 14.9 x 2.5 x 21.6 cm
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,773,937 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

Book Description

An unforgettable first novel that packs a punch about a young boy growing up in rural Ireland in the shadow of a dark secret.

About the Author

Thomas O’Malley was raised in Ireland and England. He is a graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and has been a Returning Writing Fellow and recipient of the Grace Paley Endowed Fellowship at the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, MA. He lives in Rhinebeck, New York.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 10 reviews
15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
A brilliant story, richly told 13 Dec. 2005
By W. Michael Garner - Published on
Format: Hardcover
Thomas O'Malley's In the Province of Saints is a novel to savor. It tells the story of Michael McDonagh, a young boy in a poor, broken family rural Ireland in the late 1970s, from the time he is 9 or 10 until he is 13 or 14. The novel is told in heartbreakingly beautiful prose that is completely absorbing; as a reader, you will feel you are there, in Michael's skin, watching the clouds brood on the horizon and smelling the pigs in the yard.

The novel concerns Michael's confrontation and struggle with, and ultimately his understanding of his father's repeated abandonment of his mother and his family, first through his philandering and later through his departure for America; his mother's growing illness and imminent death; Michael's own sexuality; and finally, his sense of responsibility for his family and for himself. This is a world in which right and wrong, historically spelled out by the church, social hierarchy and the family, are ostensibly black and white. But in the late 20th Century, it is a world in which right and wrong are often reversed, and in which survival and even salvation depend upon violating traditional boundaries. Thus, we see, time and again, a cycle of transgression, punishment, penitence and redemption that Michael, his father, other members of his family and those around him not only endure but embrace both to get along day to day and to grow beyond their circumstances. For example, we see Michael at the age of 9 or 10, stealing eggs and bread from the neighbors because the family is in arrears with the dairy man. His mother discovers his wrong, and slaps his face in punishment, but the boy stands fast, and despite her rebuke, the mother keeps the stolen food. The scene is rich in moral ambiguity and the struggle of both characters to find what is right. Much later in the novel, this transgression is echoed by Michael's blatant vandalism of a neighbor's shed -- payback for the neighbor's exaction of penitence from Michael's father. The spiral goes on, with Michael eventually witnessing the ultimate transgression by others, which places him in the position of deciding whether to step into the role of judge and mete out punishment or to take another path.

The story is both compelling and moving. One of O'Malley's many great accomplishments in this novel is a portrayal of a land and characters that is panoramic in scope -- with respect to both the exterior and interior landscapes. Likewise, young Michael's growth from a boy to a young man is meticulously, yet subtly drawn, even down to the language, which early on seems deliberately (and rightly) hesitant and tentative, but which becomes bolder and more forceful as Michael matures.

This is a novel that will engage you completely, that will absorb you with the richness of its language and that will endear you to its noble, fallible characters.
12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
Chuig an mé mhuinta scafóideach 15 Mar. 2006
By Corkman - Published on
Format: Hardcover
In the Province of Saints is an exquisitely written book that reveals the real Ireland that many of us Irish experienced in the years before the Celtic Tiger. It's too bad that the reviewer, Seaghaan Mar, cannot see past his petty prejudices to truly read and appreciate this beautifully crafted book. Perhaps he was reading a book other than this one? It is clear from his comments that he has no real understanding of the Irish or of our experiences (hardly folklore). O'Malley's characters are rich and fully realized, and every moment of rural life is captured with such precision and authenticity that one feels the author's love and respect for these people. There is darkness here and the hardships are those that many Irish have experienced, but this does nothing to dim this distinct vision nor does it lessen the worth and meaning of such hardships. O'Malley writes without a shred of self-pity or sentimentality and this is a testament to his maturity, and that in the very dark yet very real moments of these character's lives O'Malley casts light, tenderness, and hope. He shows us all the darkness so that we may see the light, something every person (Irish or otherwise) can understand. With In the Province of Saints, O'Malley reveals his authority and command as a writer, a writer mature beyond his years, and already, it seems, masterful in the form. No wonder Booklist has chosen this book as one of the ten best first books of 2005 and the New York Public Library has picked it as one of the best twenty five books from last year, in their Books to Remember for 2005.

I look forward to reading more from this promising writer.
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
Glad I Found This 26 Sept. 2005
By Mary C. McDyer - Published on
Format: Hardcover
What a wonderful story of hope and sorrow, failure and triumph! The author puts you in the middle of conflict while, at the same time, gives the reader a true appreciation of the struggles in Ireland. This is a "must read" for all who share an Irish heritage and those who are sorry they don't.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
Truth and Beauty 6 May 2006
By Billy B - Published on
Format: Hardcover
As the New York Times and The Washington Post suggest, this is, indeed, a beautiful, heartbreaking tale in which the lives of real people in difficult circumstances are explored. This may, truly, be depressing to readers who have never had to endure hardship or poverty or experience violence in their lives but O'Malley has a need to explore people whose lives aren't as comfortable as ours, people who endure and succeed despite the hard choices that they must make-this seems such an integral and necessary function of the human condition and of living and O'Malley captures this fully. Perhaps those readers (I'm amazed by the reviewer who critiques the book without even finishing it?) who have never had to experience hardship or never been witness to it are merely more complacent than some of us and desire fictions that offer a safe, alternative perspective to this reality. That is entirely their choice. Myself, I eagerly await O'Malley's next work!
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
(4.5) "The bog gives back what it claims." 24 Aug. 2005
By Luan Gaines - Published on
Format: Hardcover
This heartbreaking novel takes place in Ireland from 1976-1981, as a young boy, Michael McDonagh, grows up in a harsh land, his father gone for long periods in America. But there are rumors connecting Padraig McDonagh and a married woman, Padraig's wife bearing the sly gossip of neighbors. As a young boy, Michael both loves and fears his father's power and intensity, the temper that turns so easily physical; yet their bond is deep, the son conscious of Padraig's struggles to survive. When Padraig returns again to America, in search of work, his wife, Moira, slowly unravels, her tentative hold on normalcy slipping with each passing night. Michael and Molly don't know how to help their mother, sensing that whatever is wrong cannot be easily fixed. Michael remembers a time "before her illness and his America had taken them away from each other."

Molly and Michael have no time for childhood, agonizing as their mother loses touch with reality, brother and sister forced to mature and care for themselves, unprotected and vulnerable. When Padraig's twin dies, Michael's father returns for his brother's funeral. Spending those few days together, Michael learns the dimensions of the man, the depth of his love, time he will come to treasure when his father leaves again. Michael worries constantly about Moira, insecurities bred by her illness forcing him to confront an adult world for which he is ill-prepared: "the ghost that roamed the countryside every night...walking the fog-shrouded fields...looking for something that in the light of day was lost and forgotten, was out mother".

For a short time, Michael enjoys a romantic tryst with a local girl, Cait Delacey, an experience that intimates the experiences that await in adulthood. With Cait, Michael escapes from the harsh realities of his days, constructing a secret place for their meetings, a hideaway that eventually unveils the harshest betrayal of his young life. His time with Cait proves transitory, finally tainted by the intrusion of the world and the Troubles that have affected the country for years. Everything Michael has believed, everyone he has trusted, all will be turned upside-down by events over which he has no control.

This close-knit society is riddled with the contradictions of religion and superstition, a common confusion in the land of myths, every explanation of the natural world tainted with the suggestion of a curse. Hardscrabble lives lead to such thoughts, the possibility that something larger-than-life is at work. The author's descriptions of the paucity that strangles the family's joy, awakens an awareness of the very real suffering that goes hand in hand with poverty, never enough to eat, no credit, threadbare clothing, cold seeping in to leach the small bit of warmth, images exacerbated by an unforgiving landscape,In the Province of Saints is defined by its lyrical prose: "He jumped easily to the ground, landing like a thin wiry cat, and threw the pitchfork powerfully into the base of the haycock where it quivered, rooted to the ground."

The scope of human emotions against the dramatic background of the Irish countryside is exceptional, page after page of stunning descriptions, evoking a harsh present and mythic history. O'Malley traces the symbiotic relationship of religion and congregants caught in the rituals and moral confines of the Catholic Church, the petty grievances between neighbors, ancient grudges harbored for generations and a profound understanding of the commitment this place demands. Michael is changed by his burdens, the Troubles, insidious poverty, Padraig's distance in America, Moira's creeping illness, Cait's innuendoes about his father's past, a shapeless future and a bitter truth, crossing painfully from childhood to adolescence. Luan Gaines/2005.
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