Powerful, warm novel about aging in Ireland, written in reverse order, starting in 2010, going back to 1940. Chapter 1 finds 75-year old widower Farley curled on the floor of his smelly toilet floor, in and out of consciousness, when lucid trying to remember how he ended there, what he did the day before, reliving old memories, planning to cry out for help at daybreak when his Polish neighbor leaves for work. But he is voiceless and one side of his body feels as if it is elsewhere. The other half feels cold in the January frost...
Chapter 2 describes Farley's day before his stroke as an unsteady James Joyce-like odyssey through snow-covered Dublin, because of a sudden death, his employer of 40 years, Frank Slowley. Farley needs his black suit dry-cleaned and one shoe repaired, a Mass card signed by a priest, and some food. At home only corn flakes and butter remain. It is a travail full of blitzes: sudden headaches and impaired vision, memory loss, time leaps and awkward contact with other people.
The next chapter is about Farley at 65 in 2000 on the day he retires. He learns that the partnership he secured by investing 25.000 pounds in Frank Slowley's law firm decades ago, will not bring the hoped-for buy out: it was a gentleman's agreement, nothing was put on paper. And Frank's son Tony now owns the firm. Nevertheless, Farley goes to his own farewell party, gets very drunk and leaves without his coat and his farewell presents.
CDH sketches Farley's life from its ending at age 75 all the way back to age 15, portraying him in years ending on 0 as an average Irishman, not the sharpest tool in the box, but capable of love, sacrifice and compassion. He is devastated after his beloved wife Martina's early death and never remarries. Each chapter contains unforgettable snippets of dialogue or description by a sensitive and perceptive, grand writer. Instantly re-readable and highly recommended.