Reviews

Library Journal
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Though this novel opens just after his pathetic, drunken death, the eponymous Billy is the center of McDermott's tale of love and redemption among a complex group of Irish American Catholics in modern New York. Billy Lynch, a likable and popular romantic doomed by alcohol and a hopeless grand passion, is mourned intensely by no fewer than 47 close friends and relatives who gather together after his funeral. Their bittersweet recollections and revelations about him and his long-gone "Irish girl" are rendered in a series of vividly drawn episodes, as seen through the clear eyes and unsentimental imagination of one of the younger relations, herself deeply affected by the vicissitudes of Billy's life. McDermott (At Weddings and Wakes, LJ 4/1/92) has created here an accessible narrative distinguished by strong characterizations and a marked sense of place; the book should appeal to a variety of readers. Recommended for most fiction collections.‘Starr E. Smith, Marymount Univ. Lib., Arlington, Va. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.


Publishers Weekly
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The death of charming Billy Lynch from alcoholism is the starting point from which McDermott (At Weddings and Wakes) meticulously develops this poignant and ironic story of a blighted life set in the Irish-American communities of Queens, the Bronx and the Hamptons. With dialogue so precise that a word or two conjures a complex relationship, she examines the curse of alcoholism and the cost it takes on family and friends. Did Billy drink because of a broken heart caused by the death of Eva, the young woman he ardently loved who had gone back to Ireland after their brief summer together? If so, his cousin Dennis has much on his conscience, since he knew that Eva used the money Billy sent her for return passage to put a down payment on a gas station for the man she decided to marry. Dennis spared Billy the humiliation of public jilting by inventing the story of Eva's demise. Or is alcoholism "the genetic disease of the Irish," a refuge for souls who can sustain their religious faith in an afterlife only if earthly existence is pursued through a bleary haze? Was plain, courageous Maeve, the woman Billy eventually married, devastated by his drinking, or was her uncomplaining devotion yet another aspect of an ancient pattern in Irish families? McDermott sensitively probes the ties of a people bound by blood, long acquaintance, shared memories, the church and the tolerance of liquor in its men. If Billy drank to sustain his belief in heaven, to find redemption for his unfulfilled life on earth, is the church's teaching about death "a well intentioned deception"? McDermott's compassionate candor about the demands of faith and the realities of living brings an emotional resonance to her seamlessly told, exquisitely nuanced tale. (Jan.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved


Library Journal
(c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

When Billy, the glue of a tight Irish community in New York, dies as a result of lifelong alcohol abuse, mourners gather around roast beef and green bean amandine to tell tales and ruminate on his struggle for happiness after he lost his first love, Eva. With carefully drawn character studies and gentle probing, McDermott, who won the National Book Award for this work, masterfully weaves a subtle but tenacious web of relationships to explore the devastation of alcoholism, the loss of innocence, the daily practice of love, and the redeeming unity of family and friendship. (LJ 11/1/97) (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.