In the Country of the Young

In the Country of the Young

4.9 10
by Lisa Carey

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On a stormy November night in 1848, a ship carrying more than a hundred Irish emigrants ran aground twenty miles off the coast of Maine. Many were saved, but some were not -- including a young girl who died crying out the name of her brother.

In the present day, the artist Oisin MacDara lives in self-imposed exile on Tiranogue -- the small island where the

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On a stormy November night in 1848, a ship carrying more than a hundred Irish emigrants ran aground twenty miles off the coast of Maine. Many were saved, but some were not -- including a young girl who died crying out the name of her brother.

In the present day, the artist Oisin MacDara lives in self-imposed exile on Tiranogue -- the small island where the shipwrecked Irish settled. The past is Oisin's curse, as memories of the twin sister who died tragically when he was a boy haunt him still.

Then on a quiet All Hallows' Eve, a restless spirit is beckoned into his home by a candle flickering in the window: the ghost of the girl whose brief life ended on Tiranogue's shore more than a century earlier. In Oisin's house she seeks comfort and warmth, and a chance at the life that was denied her so long ago.

For a lonely man chained by painful memories, nothing will ever be the same again.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Lusciously lyrical, Carey's second novel once again seductively crosses the line between reality and magic. If her first, The Mermaids Singing, introduced her as a skilful writer of tasteful melodrama and acquired her a considerable readership, her new book, backed up by an extensive marketing campaign and a reading group guide, should establish her as a serious presence in the field of quality soft-focus fiction. Set on a small island off the Maine coast, the narrative gracefully shifts from the past to the present, tracing the paths of sensual, compelling characters whose histories are inexplicably linked. Reclusive artist Oisin MacDara has not been quite human since his beloved twin sister, Nieve, committed suicide 25 years ago at the age of 15. He lives alone on the island of Tiranogue, named after an Irish immigrant ship that foundered there in 1848, and rarely speaks to anyone, although almost every single woman on the island has benefited from "knowing" him, in the biblical sense. Gifted with second sight as a child, Boston-born Oisin often saw spirits when he visited his relatives in Ireland every summer. Although he has not seen a ghost since Nieve died, he is always looking for her to return, so Oisin is hopeful when a spirit begins to haunt his lonely cabin and eventually materializes to live with him. However, the ghost is that of a seven-year-old girl named Aisling Quinn, who died in a shipwreck more than a century ago. The result of an illicit affair, Aisling had been ignored by all of her family except her brother Darragh. She and Darragh, who also died at sea, hoped to begin a new life in Canada. Returned in the flesh to Tiranogue, Aisling begins to live the life she was denied, miraculously growing from childhood into adulthood over the course of a year. Crafting a backstory as vibrant and poignant as her primary narrative, Carey lovingly charts the unearthly relationship between suffering souls, carefully skirting simple saccharine solutions. 7-city author tour. (Nov.) Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.
Janet Maslin
A haunting, beautifully rendered, exquisitely doomy novel with echoes of Andrea Barrett's Ship Fever... steeped in erotically-charged memories and the unfulfilled longings of the dead.
New York Times
Kirkus Reviews
More of Carey's magic, first glimpsed in The Mermaids Singing (1998), pours out of this lovely tale of a lonely, long-suffering artist with a special gift and his romance with a spectral visitor. It isn't exactly a gentle ghost that Oisin entices into his secluded home on a remote Maine island by leaving his door open during the lunar equinox in November. Over the course of days that follow, as things go missing and he has the feeling of being watched, he finds that a child has entered his life. When the haunting takes a new turn and the child ceases to be a ghost, it's not the girl Oisin was hoping for. At eight, Aisling is much younger than Oisin's twin sister was when she died, leaving him alone with his unhappy parents and his second sight. But before the recluse can come to terms with having a needy, curious, beautiful stranger to care for, he has another shock: Aisling is growing up at an unnatural rate. All winter she plays with the younger son of Oisin's neighbor, but by summer she's a young teenager, able to join with the neighbor's older nieces on their annual holiday. For both Oisin and Aisling, their months together prompt painful memories. He recalls his sister Nieve, who killed herself in adolescence as the madness marking women in their family became manifest. Aisling remembers her older brother Darragh, who kept her alive during the Irish potato famine that killed the rest of their family, then died of fever beside her on the ship taking them to Canada—the ship that wrecked in the 1840s on the island's coast, where she died. A greater pain than these memories, however, is the love Aisling and Oisin feel for each other, which burns withgreaterintensity asher time in human form draws to a close. Passionate and lyrical, an unlikely tale of love and redemption that works surpassingly well. Author tour

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In the Country of the Young

Chapter One

In the palm of his hand, beneath ink stains and scars from careless splatters of acid, Oisin MacDara has three life lines.

He has known this since he was twenty-two, when he paid ten dollars on the street in Portland for a palm reading. The young woman who held his hand and traced its lines with a flirtatious stroke that left him half hard did not look like a spiritual adviser. Instead, she could have been one of the female students whom Oisin had seduced during his year of teaching art at the community college. Which was half the reason he'd stopped and put his hand out in the first place.

"Your life line is broken into three," she said. "This is the first part of your life." She pointed to the indented half moon in the curve between his thumb and forefinger. "It's the deepest line: your life as a child." She smiled at him, and the tiny green stone in her nostril rose slightly out of its hole.

"This is the second part of your life," she said, running her thumb over the center of his palm, where a fierce Jumble of slices converged, like brambles attacking the skin.

"And this is your last life."

A line so smooth he could have etched it himself, reaching all the way to the pale skin that barely guarded the blue veins of his wrist.

"You are here now," she told him, pointing to the thicket of brambles. She had a Maine accent. She was trying to disguise it, but it leaked into her words, he-ah for here.

She looked up at Oisin, narrowing her eyes. It occurred to him that he could have sex with this girl. At twenty-two, such opportunities were still new enough tosurprise him, and sometimes he forgot to ask himself whether he was interested before his seduction reflex took over. This time, he resisted.

I'll give her a miss, he thought. It was superstition more than anything that made him walk away. He was afraid of jinxing the palm reading, of disrespecting that small psychic moment. For she had recognized what he had always known-that there was a gap, a clear divide between his childhood and his life now. When he was young, he could see (he'd had a gift, a second sight), and in the years that followed, everything, even the tangible world, had seemed indistinct. As though, sometime during puberty, he'd gone blind.

Though his neighbors think he is a cynical, faithless man, Oisin is actually highly superstitious. It's his demeanor that's misleading. He is intensely Moody, his eyes seem to search faces for evil motives, and he has a sarcastic, sometimes harsh humor. People tend to assume that he would not be open-minded to the spiritual or supernatural aspects of life. Nobody realizes that Oisin knows more than most about such things.

If he were as cynical as he appeared, he would have tossed the moment aside, denounced it later as a whim and the girl as a New Age student desperate for hash money. But Olsin, who is secretly hopeful above all else, in the twenty years since he had his palm analyzed in Portland, has been waiting for his sight to be returned, and for his last life to begin.

The haunting begins with an open door and missing tobacco, though Oisin, who has grown lazy from so much waiting, does not recognize it at first.

Oisin has been smoking since he was a teenager, but in the two years since his fortieth birthday, he has rolled his own cigarettes from imported blond tobacco. He rolls them partly because it is cheaper, partly because he enjoys the ritual of creating each smoke, and mostly because he considers it a step toward giving up smoking altogether. Rollies are healthier, he tells himself, pure tobacco, none of the burning agents, glass fragments, or formaldehyde you find in filter cigarettes. This pure tobacco leaves brown streaks where his two front teeth meet, which he scrapes off with a paring knife every few weeks.

This is the second time he has lost the eight-dollar tin that is supposed to last him a month. He's too much of an addict to be careless about where he leaves the tobacco. He has considered the possibility of schizophrenia and imagines that he is experiencing blackouts during which he chain-smokes and then disposes of the evidence. Perhaps he has a second personality that is not getting its fair share of nicotine.

Before beginning the day's work in his studio, he drives to the island quay to buy another tin. Lined along the docks in a sheltered bay are Tiranogue's few businesses: a restaurant with picnic table seating, a pub with fishing nets catching dust on the ceiling, a husband-and-wife-owned store specializing in hardware and Irish sweaters, and a lobster hut rocking perilously on a small float, tended by local girls in bikinis who reapply suntan oil when they're not hoisting submerged traps of shellfish.

Oisin enters the general grocer, which 'is stocked with everything Moira, the proprietor, imagines an islander might need. In one corner is a soda fountain pharmacy, where locals can have a bowl of chowder while Moira's brother, Michael, fills their prescription. It has the same menu as the restaurant, and often Michael runs next door to fill orders for clam plates, but the locals never enter the restaurant--it is meant for the tourists.

Moira orders Oisin's tobacco specially; all the other islanders smoke one of four popular brands of filter cigarettes. He wants to explain to her that he just keeps losing his supply so she won't start ordering extra tobacco. He can imagine her unease as it slowly goes stale on the shelf But he's afraid of how this absentmindedness will look, and how rumors of his deteriorating brain will spread. He ends up buying two tins; it seems easier than explaining. He'll hide one from himself and test the sharpness of his errant personality...

In the Country of the Young. Copyright © by Lisa Carey. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

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