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Hood is a tale of love between two Catholic women in Dublin, Ireland--a country in which homosexuality still largely dares not speak its name openly. Cara's sudden death at 30 leaves bereaved Penelope shocked, grieving, reliving their 14-year relationship, which Donoghue covers in a series of overlapping flashbacks, from the time the two met in convent school in the late seventies to the early nineties, when they lived together in Cara's father's home. Funeral preparations and postburial returns to "normalcy" alternate with Pen's recollections of the moody, tempestuous Cara. These memories include screamingly good sex muffled from Cara's father's ears; Cara's repeated forays into other women's and men's beds; day-to-day routines the two shared, including Cara's maddening habit of asking life's larger questions as they drift to sleep at night; and, most important, Pen's development into a coping but vulnerable adult. Although some may find it slow, others will consider this love story that well conveys the complexities and nuances of intimate relationships stately and elegiac. --Whitney Scott
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"I'm blithering, amn't I?" asks Pen O'Grady, narrator of Donoghue's second novel (after Stir-Fry). Many readers will answer "yes"and that's a shame, because behind Pen's banal chattiness lies an agreeable and affecting story. Thirty-year-old Dublin schoolteacher Pen has just lost her lover of 13 years, Cara Wall, in a car crash. Though mapping the trajectory of Pen's grief seems Donoghue's primary aim, she also explores issues untouched by death: Will Pen bed Cara's sexy older sister, Kate, who's flown home from America for the funeral? Will Pen find the courage to come out to her mother and to Cara's father? Quotidian tails of housecleaning and coffee-brewing share space, sometimes too much, with tender and troubling flashbacks of life with the flame-haired, faithless Cara, whom Pen first seduced on their convent-school roof. Donoghue's unsentimental examination of the complex relationship between the two women is a pleasure, but the story line, lacking dramatic tension, ultimately sags under the weight of Pen's wordiness. U.K., translation, dramatic rights: Caroline Davidson, London. (Mar.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved