Dubliner Roddy Doyle’s first short story collection describes the “new Ireland” that emerged in the 1990s, a land of booming economic opportunity and burgeoning immigration. “I went to bed in one country and woke up in a different one,” writes Doyle. Each one involves someone new to Ireland interacting with a native, with much cross-cultural confusion and dark humor ensuing — along with Doyle’s furious and consistent compassion for the underdog. But true understanding often results. The first story centers on Larry, a “hip” Irish father whose daughter Stephanie brings home a Nigerian suitor. Larry’s level of discomfort, his terror at saying the wrong thing, creates hilarity and exquisite tension, but Doyle never falls back upon stereotypical encounters. The title story is a sequel to Doyle’s The Commitments. Lovable Johnny Rabbitte is back, assembling a band of misfits: a Romanian, a Russian, and an African singer named King Robert. The best here is, “New Boy,” in which a nine-year-old African immigrant fights off bullies and struggles to adapt to a new school. There isn’t a bad story in the bunch, and each introduces vivid characters struggling with self-identity in a newly multicultural Ireland. Roddy Doyle has long been a treasure, and this collection wonderfully reflects his richly comic humanity. -
About the Author
Chuck Leddy is a member of the National Book Critics Circle who writes frequently about American history. He reviews books regularly for The Boston Globe, as well as Civil War Times and American History magazines. He is a contributing editor for The Writer magazine.