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In the forest
Edna O'Brien
Adult Fiction O'BRIEN

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From Publishers' Weekly:

Based on a real triple homicide that shocked Ireland in 1994, O'Brien's short, stark and eloquent novel reveals an unforgettable prospect of hell. This hell is contained in the feverishly disturbed mind of Michen O'Kane (perhaps a wordplay on Cain), the murderer. From an early age, O'Kane displays spontaneous unsociability, for which he is punished with unremitting cruelty, first by his wife-beating father, then by the villagers of Cloosh, his small Irish village, and then by the Irish juvenile detention system, where he is sodomized and psychologically tortured. O'Kane comes back to Cloosh a ticking bomb, hearing voices in his head. After he sets up a camp in the woods, he sets his sights on a relative stranger in the village, a free spirit named Eily Ryan who, with her son, Maddie, is living a modern, single mother's lifestyle obscurely disapproved of by the conservative villagers. One morning O'Kane kidnaps her and the boy. She's forced to drive O'Kane to his woods, passing through the village in full view of several frightened bystanders, who do nothing to help her. After murdering his two victims, O'Kane kidnaps a priest and repeats the act. Like Patrick McCabe's The Butcher Boy, this story is about acts of naked violence that put to an extreme test the proposition that nothing human is alien to us. O'Brien's brilliant stroke is to make us understand that O'Kane is not merely a savage madman, by placing him in the milieu that formed his character. Incapable of overcoming childhood patterns of violence, O'Kane, in a horribly distorted way, becomes our mirror image; he's both "the personification of evil" and our "own flesh and blood, gone amok." O'Brien's sentient, sonorous prose makes both O'Kane's inner world and his environment nearly palpable. 4-city author tour. (Mar. 29) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

From Library Journal:

Returning to the west Ireland locales of Wild Decembers, O'Brien spins a tale of triple murder based on a notorious true crime. From an early age, unruly Michen O'Kane is the bane of village and countryside. The neglected and abused child's behavior worsens after he loses his adored mother, and, before he is out of grammar school, he is repeatedly incarcerated in juvenile detention institutions, where he is physically and psychologically damaged. He develops into a career criminal capable of violence, and his longtime neighbors are frightened when he suddenly reappears. But bad as the adult O'Kane is, the villagers can't believe that he could kill, even when it becomes clear that he was the last person with three newcomers a lovely young mother, her little boy, and a charitable priest before they disappeared. O'Brien's unsparing yet evocative prose effectively contrasts the glories of the Irish landscape with its all-too-flawed inhabitants, and her skillful narration keeps the pace at page-turning level as the frightening events proceed to their inevitable, horrific conclusion. Recommended for most fiction collections. Starr E. Smith, Fairfax Cty. P.L., VA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

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main characters Michen O'Kane
Age: Young adult

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