by Kevin Maher
This ambitious novel from Dublin-born, London-based journalist Maher observes its cheeky 14-year-old narrator Jim Finnegan's coming-of-age in mid-1980s Dublin with humor and verve. The youngest child of office-equipment salesman Matt and devoutly religious Devida, Jim has five sisters, but he is closest to Fiona. His life is blighted after the repulsive Father Luke O'Culigeen recruits Jim to serve as the parish altar boy, sexually abusing him until Jim's "hard as nails" Aunty Grace comes to the rescue. Jim's own mistakes contribute to his troubles, as when his girlfriend, Saidhbh Donohue, a "vision of pure beauty" four years his senior, announces she is pregnant. Meanwhile, his father is struck down with debilitating lymphoma. Feeling desperate, Jim decamps with Saidhbh to London, where Aunty Grace lives, and, in a far-fetched stab at finding the solution to everyone's problems, trains at the School of Astral Sciences to become a "fully-fledged healing machine" with the ability to observe people's "auric fields." The strong voice Maher creates for his protagonist, rich with the slang of working-class Dublin, provides the most lasting impression in this solid debut.
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