Long Time, No See

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The funny, moving, long-awaited masterwork from "Ireland’s finest living novelist" (Roddy Doyle)

Celebrated Irish author Dermot Healy’s first novel in more than ten years is a rich, beguiling, compassionate, and wonderfully funny story about community, family, love, and bonds across generations.

Set in an isolated coastal town in northwest Ireland, Long Time, No See centers around an unforgettable cast of innocents and wounded, broken misfits. ...

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Long Time, No See: A Novel

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The funny, moving, long-awaited masterwork from "Ireland’s finest living novelist" (Roddy Doyle)

Celebrated Irish author Dermot Healy’s first novel in more than ten years is a rich, beguiling, compassionate, and wonderfully funny story about community, family, love, and bonds across generations.

Set in an isolated coastal town in northwest Ireland, Long Time, No See centers around an unforgettable cast of innocents and wounded, broken misfits. The story is narrated by a young man known as Mister Psyche who takes up with and is then drawn into a series of bemusing and unsettling misadventures with two men some fifty years his senior—his grand uncle Joejoe and Joejoe’s neighbor The Blackbird—wonderful, eccentric characters full of ancient jealousies and grudges and holding some very dark secrets.

Written with great lyrical power and a vivid sense of place and published to rapturous reviews in England and Ireland, Long Time, No See is a sad-comic tapestry of life and death that celebrates the incredibly rich lives of ordinary people.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Healy (A Goat’s Song) writes early on in his latest novel, “It’s extraordinary how ordinary life is,” and spends the remainder of the story exploring the mundane. Philip Feeney (aka Mister Psyche) is fresh out of secondary school, living with his parents and doing odd jobs for neighbors in the small coastal town of Ballintra, in modern-day Ireland. His primary task is taking care of his grand-uncle Joejoe and Joejoe’s friend, the Blackbird. The elderly duo provide mild entertainment, and Healy details Philip’s tasks perhaps too diligently, as the reader is often left feeling as if they’ve spent time doing chores rather than reading a book. Revolving around the main trio, tangential characters come and go, and Philip either amuses or aids them in a series of exploits, making the book reminiscent of Steinbeck’s Tortilla Flat. As Joejoe and the Blackbird begin to deteriorate with age, the story comes into focus, albeit quite late. Highly stylized, chock-full of colorful dialogue, and steeped in Irish idioms, this is a leisurely read about ordinary folk acting out the dramas that make a life. (July 5)
Library Journal
Philip Feeney, known as Mister Psyche to the locals of the Irish fishing village Ballintra, spends his days tending to odd jobs and his granduncle Joejoe while waiting for the results of his school exams. When Joejoe's best friend, a curious, sweet-smelling soul known as the Blackbird, badly injures himself, Philip tries to navigate the swelling grief that threatens to overwhelm his family and friends. Philip's own mind and heart, still fragile since the untimely death of his best friend, Mickey, the year before, prove resilient and true. VERDICT Healy's (Sudden Times; A Goat's Song) first novel in ten years is a triumphant return by the author Roddy Doyle considers "Ireland's greatest writer." Philip's voice, at once tender and odd, like Joejoe's slightly out-of-tune accordion, narrates. His easy familiarity with Ballintra's seasonal rhythms, landscapes, and inhabitants credibly shapes the contours of an interior life open to all perceptions and ideas that existence offers him. A beautiful account of one person's acceptance of his own quiet heroism.—J. Greg Matthews, Washington State Univ. Libs., Pullman
Kirkus Reviews
A young man holds his grief over the death of a friend in check by watching over his granduncle; a quietly impressive (if overlong) fourth novel from the Irish Healy (Sudden Times, 2000, etc.). Philip Feeney, also known as Mister Psyche, lives in the village of Ballintra on the Atlantic with his Da, a handyman, and his Ma, a hospital nurse. While waiting for his junior college exam results and doing odd jobs, he looks after his granduncle, Joejoe, who lives alone. He makes his tea and reads to him from the Bible and even scratches his back (the old man has psoriasis). Joejoe's other visitor is known as the Blackbird, a loner slipping into his dotage like Joejoe. Then a shocking event occurs. A bullet is fired through Joejoe's window. The old man suspects another neighbor, the General, nursing a 50-year-old grudge over a woman, but that's ridiculous. Philip's Da believes the Blackbird is the shooter, but has no proof. It will only be much later that the surprising truth emerges. The old men represent an ancient culture that in 2006 eurozone Ireland is vanishing; Poles and Lithuanians have arrived, looking for work. Much of the novel is beautifully captured dialogue, though Philip seldom says more than two words at a time. He professes not to have an interior life. Part of him has closed down, and only scattered hints tell us why. A year before, his close friend Mickey Brady, driving drunk, died in an accident. Frustratingly for the reader, and surely too for Philip's loyal girlfriend, Anna, the catharsis never comes; the balance is off. When he's not looking after Joejoe, Philip devotes his energy to building a wall for his mother's future vegetable garden; it's a symbol of regeneration. The novel's second half is increasingly elegiac as the two mutually dependent old-timers totter toward the grave. An affecting account of the love that leaps across a generation.
The Barnes & Noble Review
The English language as spoken by the Irish calls up a far different world from the one found coming out of other Englishes, American or British. Rich with animistic conceits and logical twists, it tends toward speculativeness and seems a little wary of what it describes, as if there might be a secret side to things. This language's take on the world, one quite unscathed by Occam's razor, may be found in all its imaginative force in the pages of poet and novelist Dermot Healy's Long Time, No See, a novel of strange sweetness and muted emotion.

Set in 2006, in and around a little coastal town on the Northwest coast of Ireland, the story, such as it is -- for there is little plot, though much incident -- is told by Philip, a boy just out of high school. He is in a state of suspension, not only waiting for the results of his exams but also drifting in isolating sadness over the death of a friend in a car crash. He spends his days working odd jobs for money and offering a helping hand to all and sundry. The chief objects of his care are the novel's other central characters, his granduncle, Joejoe, and the Blackbird, Joejoe's particular friend. Both men are old, stubborn, and filled with crochets; both address the world in language that grants each thing more creaturely identity, individuality, and powers of agency than do most other tongues: "Be God," says Joejoe when Philip's father replaces a pane of glass in his window, "I think it lets in a better class of light than before."

Strangeness and wonder are everywhere in this book, and storms, wild customers themselves, seem to bring them on. After one great blow, Philip goes down to the shore to examine the damage:
I checked the lobster pots, then I came upon this old wall set into the bottom of the cliff that had not been there before. The storm had dragged down the boulder clay and uncovered this ancient stone wall, about twenty foot long, cemented with sandy clay.

It was the same rock that built our house and built the walls in the fields. It was everywhere around me, but had never been there, under the cliff, stone on stone, until the sea hoked it out.

I said to myself have I seen you before, but I hadn't.
If Philip seems unusually charitable -- and he does, his mood seeming to be one of expiation for his friend's death -- it is a virtue that eventually affects practically everyone in the book, including a couple of lorry drivers, a former sniper, two shipwrecked Russian sailors, another Russian who was once an opera singer, and three hippies. People pitch in, left and right, bringing order and rightness: getting a stalled car started, cutting the overgrown hooves of an old donkey, oiling metalwork, tidying up Joejoe's house, cleaning a chimney choked by decades of soot and debris. That, in particular, is a great and satisfying production. This friendly, order-bringing activity culminates in a section called "The Protestant Earth." It describes the leveling of a little hill that had obstructed the sea view of the old Protestant woman who lives in the area's decaying "big house" and transporting the earth to Philip's (Catholic) mother's future garden. Even the two deaths that occur in the book are followed by all the rightness and respectful finality of perfectly organized, well-attended wakes.

The novel sets forth something like a prelapsarian Ireland, one where peace, order, and kindness prevail, where the enchanted hare with a taste for salt and his friend, the heron, stand in quiet companionship beside each other looking out to sea. The presence of foreigners now living in the land is not resented, and except for an altercation between the two old fellows, almost every other encounter sparks amity. It is, perhaps, a wishful alternative to the New Ireland, for the novel is set during the Celtic Tiger, the boom that plunged the country into devastating prosperity. But in this Ireland, the grim Jansenist fatalism of the past hasn't been replaced by grotesque materialism -- as was the actual case -- but rather by a sense of hope and caring. In this version, the old and the new exist together in serenity: "A woman power-walker strode by. In the field beyond, a magpie stood on a sheep, on the middle of her back, looking off into the distance, and the sheep had her head a little off the ground, wondering."

In this place, under this pen, the present inhabits the past even as it replaces it -- in striking contrast to the violations and despoliations of the actual Irish building bonanza. We are given only two brief glimpses of real estate developments, their untenanted buildings harbingers of the disaster to come; but we are presented with a beautifully wrought alternative: Philip building the dry-stone wall that will surround his mother's garden, the destination of the "Protestant earth." I leave you with it and with Dermot Healy's great and yearning poetic vision:
Some of the stone I used had come inland in storms. But today I started to haul from an old ruin up on the bank overlooking the sea. I got an awful bad feeling as I pulled the rocks out of the ruin. I had to tell myself over and over that they were going back into another wall. The ruin was supposed to have been a henhouse way back, but it was the strongest built henhouse I ever came across. There were massive stones in her. I could have been demolishing a small church, and sometimes I thought I was.

A beehive hut it might have been.

A monk's chamber.

I could even feel the sense of balance of the man who had built it.

He drew the stone from the coral beach by ass and cart to the spot I was taking them from. As he built alongside me, I was pulling his work down. As he dropped a stone into place, I lifted it and carried it away. He built towards me, and I built away from him. I could feel the way he carried himself. He could have been a great- great-granduncle of mine. In his wall I came across chaffs of wheat that were still dry. The bones of coral. White marble. A clay pipe. I was over and back with the barrow, then I began to build. And he came with me. Fit in, stand back, put in a small stone, and follow the twine.

Good man.

He stood to the side watching me work.
Katherine A. Powers reviews books widely and has been a finalist for the Nona Balakian Citation for Excellence in Reviewing from the National Book Critics Circle.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780670023608
  • Publisher: Viking Adult
  • Publication date: 7/5/2012
  • Pages: 448
  • Product dimensions: 6.38 (w) x 9.06 (h) x 1.42 (d)

Meet the Author

Dermot Healy is the author of three novels (including A Goat’s Song), a memoir, a collection of stories, and five volumes of poetry. His prizes include the Hennessey Award for Short Stories, the Tom Gallon Award, and the Encore Award. He was the winner of the 2002 America Ireland Literary Award, which was funded by the America Ireland Fund and given in recognition of his contribution to Irish letters.

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Customer Reviews

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( 4 )
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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 8, 2013


    Greypelt where are you if you are locked out come to lost first result

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    Posted May 30, 2013


    "Mmhm." Stares at the cat.

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    Posted May 25, 2013


    Pounces on Fuzzys tail.

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    Posted May 30, 2013


    Do you trust me?

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