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On Canaan's side [sound recording]
Barry, Sebastian
Adult Fiction BARRY

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From Publishers' Weekly:

Lilly Bere is an 89-year-old retired cook living in the Hamptons in Long Island in Irish writer Barry's latest novel (after The Secret Scripture). Lilly is mourning her grandson, a veteran of the first Gulf War, who has just committed suicide. But this is hardly the first loss she's had in a life spanning continents and many other wars. Born and raised in Ireland, Lilly's first encounter with loss comes when her brother Willie is killed in WWI. A fellow soldier, Tadg Bere, comes to pay his respects to the family and woos her in earnest soon after. The young couple has no time to marry, as Tadg, enrolled in the Black and Tans, an auxiliary police force, is implicated in an ambush of IRA militia men and a price is put on both their heads. They flee to America under assumed names, hoping to start a new life there in safety with the help of some extended family in Chicago, but the past catches up with them. Over the subsequent decades, Lilly is tossed around her adopted country, grappling with the distance from her homeland. She's fascinated by the expansiveness and vigor of America despite her unceasing heartache over the generations of men and their war service. Barry's skills are evident as he tenderly unspools Lilly's story, with a fine eye for intimate moments, but the final impression of her life against its historical backdrop is clouded by the familiarity of many of the novel's elements and the schematic way each additional emotional blow falls relentlessly, tugging at the reader's heartstrings with diminishing force. (Sept.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

From Library Journal:

The follow-up to Barry's extraordinary The Secret Scripture, this novel is the lyrical first-person account of Lilly Bere's extraordinary life. A Wicklow girl prodded through life by a series of tragedies, Lilly relates her story at the end of her days from the relative comfort of a seaside cottage in the Hamptons. Her many escapes from harm and even death are counterbalanced by the almost epic grandeur of the love she has shared throughout her existence. Barry suggests that even the perpetual grind of violence and war cannot unsettle Lilly's love, though the tragic passing of her beloved grandson, Bill, upends her equilibrium. Verdict Barry's prose is characteristically musical throughout and sometimes seems at odds with the dissonant events and discoveries that subtly drone throughout Lilly's story. Still, this novel masterfully treats great human subjects, identity, love, war, and death among them. Barry brilliantly conveys how Lilly endures because of her love for others and how inevitable her own end must be when those she loves have passed away. Readers of Roddy Doyle's The Last Roundup trilogy will savor On Canaan's Side. [See Prepub Alert, 3/23/11.]-John G. Matthews, Washington State Univ. Libs., Pullman (c) Copyright 2011. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

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