The Visitors

The Visitors

by Patrick O'Keeffe
     
 

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A lyrical novel set in America and Ireland from the Story Prize–winning author of The Hill Road

As he did so masterfully in the connected novellas of The Hill Road, Patrick O’Keeffe’s first novel moves back and forth in time and place to weave the story of two Irish families forever linked by love, secrets, and…  See more details below

Overview

A lyrical novel set in America and Ireland from the Story Prize–winning author of The Hill Road

As he did so masterfully in the connected novellas of The Hill Road, Patrick O’Keeffe’s first novel moves back and forth in time and place to weave the story of two Irish families forever linked by love, secrets, and their heritage.

James Dwyer was born in rural county Limerick before moving to Dublin as a teenager and ultimately settling in Ann Arbor. One night James’s past appears in the form of a down-and-out man named Walter, who issues an invitation for James to come to Upstate New York to visit his old childhood neighbor, Kevin Lyons. Although neither James nor Kevin particularly cares for each other, there’s no denying their complicated past. Kevin and James’s sister, Tess, were lovers while James fell hard for Kevin’s sister, Una.

Illuminating the precarious balance of family intimacies and how stories can carry over from one generation to the next, O’Keeffe’s The Visitors further delivers on the elegant prose and plotting that earned him critical acclaim and the Story Prize for The Hill Road.

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
01/01/2014
Story Prize winner O'Keeffe's first novel after The Hill Road tells the story of two Irish families, the Dwyers and the Lyons, and how the lives of the children especially become entangled, more by proximity than by passion. As the children scatter abroad to earn their living, their connections become tenuous but remain as an unrelenting itch in the mind of Jimmy Dwyer, the narrator. Jimmy is born in the rural county Limerick, moves to Dublin as a teenager, and finally settles in Ann Arbor, MI. He evokes the frustration of poverty, rural life, and puberty and depicts the inconsistency of moral convictions—those of his community as well as his own. When an unexpected reunion with his childhood friend Kevin Lyons and new information about the reality of the past becomes available, Jimmy's perspective changes. VERDICT O'Keeffe paints a picture of self-centered introspection, Irish gloom, and the ironic repetition of events from generation to generation that will appeal to most fiction readers.—Joanna Burkhardt, Univ. of Rhode Island Libs., Providence
Publishers Weekly
★ 12/09/2013
Taken as a whole, this slow-burner from O’Keeffe (The Hill Road) delivers a devastating emotional wallop. Winner of the 2006 Story Prize, O’Keeffe has turned from tales of those who stayed in Ireland to one about those who left. The trajectory of expat protagonist James Dwyer is not dissimilar to O’Keeffe’s own journey from Ireland to America. As the novel opens in the States, Jimmy is visited by an indigent man who carries a message from Jimmy’s past. The novel is heedless of time, meandering back and forth through Jimmy’s life and the lives of his forbears to bring the reader up to speed about the import of the message, which turns out to be from Jimmy’s childhood nemesis, Kevin Lyons. We learn, gradually, of the inextricable bonds between the Lyons family and the Dwyers back in County Limerick, about the affairs and tragedies of aunts, fathers, brothers, sisters, and namesakes. It is not until Jimmy begins to read the diary left behind by Kevin’s dad, Michael, that the reader becomes aware that the author is up to something quite remarkable. The very air Jimmy breathes seems rife with memory—not only his, but his family’s—pregnant with the secrets of those who went before him. By the time all is revealed, the reader is captivated and moved. (Mar.)
From the Publisher
Advance Praise for The Visitors by Patrick O’Keeffe
 
“Delivers a devastating emotional wallop. . .The novel is heedless of time, meandering back and forth through James Dwyer’s life and the lives of his forbears. . .We learn, gradually, of the inextricable bonds between the Lyons family and the Dwyers back in in Country Limerick, about the affairs and tragedies of aunts, fathers, brothers, sisters. . .by the time all is revealed, the reader is captivated and moved.”—Publishers Weekly
                                                                                      
“How well Patrick O'Keeffe knows the difficulties of leaving the past behind.  I am full of admiration for his long view of history and family and the way he gradually reveals both in this wonderfully intelligent novel. The Visitors is a work of many pleasures.”—Margot Livesey
 
“In Patrick O'Keeffe's The Visitors, the past is constantly catching up to, and overtaking, the present, and the result is haunted and beautiful book that culminates in violence that's both inevitable and surprising. A wonderful first novel.”—Charles Baxter
 
“The tangle of family life—the perils of escape, the perils of staying—is written into a novel of rare emotional authenticity.  Ireland and America keep offering eye-opening surprises here, as The Visitors—unsentimental, unflinching, poignant in the most convincing way—shows how home and the past keep changing their meanings.”—Joan Silber

“Patrick O’Keeffe’s first novel is a masterful one, moving deftly back and forth in time and place while evoking rural Ireland through musical prose. But at its heart The Visitors is the tale of a haunted man named James Dwyer, who discovers that no matter how far across the ocean he travels, he remains forever bound by love and memory to home.”—Amy Greene

Kirkus Reviews
★ 2014-01-23
A young Irishman immigrates to the States and finds he can't escape family and friends—or enemies. James Dwyer narrates the story, from his growing up in rural Ireland to his job in a Dublin pub to his move to the States, working as a housepainter and as a baker. The drama in his life primarily involves family and his family's acquaintances. His father is a plainspoken farmer, and James definitively does not want to follow in his dad's vocational footsteps. His father's best friend is Michael Lyons, and it's the Lyons family with whom James' life gets most intertwined. Michael's son Kevin is a few years older than James and something of a bully as they're growing up. While an adolescent, James witnesses a sexual act between Kevin and James' sister Tess, and later, love relationships get even more complicated when James falls in love with Kevin's sister Una. The novel opens mysteriously when an old man named Walter knocks on James' door in Ann Arbor, claims to have seen a woman lying in the street and uses that as an opening to start a conversation with James. We find out that this is no chance encounter but rather that Walter is actually a messenger from Kevin, now living in upstate New York and doing well financially by buying houses, fixing them up and then reselling them at an impressive profit. James reluctantly makes the trip to see Kevin, who wants James to read Michael's old journals, which contain revelations about both families. O'Keeffe closely observes human interactions and conveys his narrative largely through glistening dialogue that has the feel of Celtic folk poetry.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780698151352
Publisher:
Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date:
03/13/2014
Sold by:
Penguin Group
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
288
Sales rank:
1,264,699
File size:
1 MB

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What People are saying about this

From the Publisher
Advance Praise for The Visitors by Patrick O’Keeffe
 
“Delivers a devastating emotional wallop. . .The novel is heedless of time, meandering back and forth through James Dwyer’s life and the lives of his forbears. . .We learn, gradually, of the inextricable bonds between the Lyons family and the Dwyers back in in Country Limerick, about the affairs and tragedies of aunts, fathers, brothers, sisters. . .by the time all is revealed, the reader is captivated and moved.”—Publishers Weekly
                                                                                      
“How well Patrick O'Keeffe knows the difficulties of leaving the past behind.  I am full of admiration for his long view of history and family and the way he gradually reveals both in this wonderfully intelligent novel. The Visitors is a work of many pleasures.”—Margot Livesey
 
“In Patrick O'Keeffe's The Visitors, the past is constantly catching up to, and overtaking, the present, and the result is haunted and beautiful book that culminates in violence that's both inevitable and surprising. A wonderful first novel.”—Charles Baxter
 
“The tangle of family life—the perils of escape, the perils of staying—is written into a novel of rare emotional authenticity.  Ireland and America keep offering eye-opening surprises here, as The Visitors—unsentimental, unflinching, poignant in the most convincing way—shows how home and the past keep changing their meanings.”—Joan Silber

“Patrick O’Keeffe’s first novel is a masterful one, moving deftly back and forth in time and place while evoking rural Ireland through musical prose. But at its heart The Visitors is the tale of a haunted man named James Dwyer, who discovers that no matter how far across the ocean he travels, he remains forever bound by love and memory to home.”—Amy Greene

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Meet the Author

Patrick O'Keeffe emigrated from Ireland to the United States in the mid-1980s. He is a graduate of the University of Kentucky and earned a MFA from the University of Michigan. He now teaches at Ohio University and lives in Athens, Ohio.

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