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A Greyhound of a Girl

A Greyhound of a Girl

3.0 2
by Roddy Doyle

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Mary O’Hara is a sharp and cheeky 12-year-old Dublin schoolgirl who is bravely facing the fact that her beloved Granny is dying. But Granny can’t let go of life, and when a mysterious young woman turns up in Mary’s street with a message for her Granny, Mary gets pulled into an unlikely adventure. The woman is the ghost of Granny’s own


Mary O’Hara is a sharp and cheeky 12-year-old Dublin schoolgirl who is bravely facing the fact that her beloved Granny is dying. But Granny can’t let go of life, and when a mysterious young woman turns up in Mary’s street with a message for her Granny, Mary gets pulled into an unlikely adventure. The woman is the ghost of Granny’s own mother, who has come to help her daughter say good-bye to her loved ones and guide her safely out of this world. She needs the help of Mary and her mother, Scarlett, who embark on a road trip to the past. Four generations of women travel on a midnight car journey. One of them is dead, one of them is dying, one of them is driving, and one of them is just starting out.

Praise for A Greyhound of a Girl

“A warm, witty, exquisitely nuanced multigenerational story.”
Kirkus Reviews, starred review

“This elegantly constructed yet beautifully simple story, set in Ireland and spun with affection by Booker Prize–winner Doyle, will be something different for YA readers. These four lilting voices will linger long after the book is closed.”
Booklist, starred review

"Written mostly in dialogue, at which Doyle excels, and populated with a charming foursome of Irish women, this lovely tale is as much about overcoming the fear of death as it is about death itself."
Publishers Weekly, starred review

"In this moving and artfully structured ghost tale, four generations of Irish women come together. A big part of the pleasure here is the rhythm of the language and the contrasting voices of the generations. Any opportunity to read it aloud would be a treat."
Horn Book

"For children grieving the death of a parent or grandparent, this book provides comfort."
Library Media Connection

Capitol Choices 2013 - Noteworthy Titles for Children and Teens
Cooperative Children’s Book Center (CCBC) Choices 2013 list - Young Adult Fiction
USBBY Outstanding International Books List 2013


Editorial Reviews

ALAN Review - Molly Druce
Mary O'Hara has heard a billion times that the past lives on, but it isn't until she meets the ghost of her great-grandmother, Tansey, that she realizes just how true this is. Doyle's A Greyhound of a Girl is a novel that explores death and moving on through the lives of four generations of women. It revolves around a tragedy, Tansey's unexpected demise, and its effect on her 3-year-old daughter, Emer. Now, with Emer on her deathbed, Tansey comes back to comfort her and, in the meantime, forever change the lives of her descendents Mary and Scarlett. The combination of Mary's playful dialogue and Tansey's matter-of-fact attitude toward death make A Greyhound of a Girl at once utterly heartbreaking and wildly amusing. Although intended for young adults, this exquisite novel deals with death and moving on in a way that can be enjoyed by people of any age. Reviewer: Molly Druce
Children's Literature - Shirley Nelson
Twelve-year old Mary is scared that her grandmother is dying and frustrated with her mother's penchant for speaking in exclamation points. She hates visiting the hospital but wants to see her granny. One day she sees an old-fashioned looking lady hanging around outside her house. Thinking she is a new neighbor, Mary begins talking with her, but soon realizes something strange is going on. She tells her mother about the lady whose name is Tansey and is surprised at her mother's strange reaction. Thus begins the journey of the four generations of women in Mary's family. Tansey is the ghost of Mary's mother's grandmother who had died when Mary's granny was only three. She knows her daughter is frightened of death and has come to help her. Mary and her mother take Granny from the hospital and the four embark on an all-night road trip through the Irish countryside to the old farm where Tansey and Granny had lived. Upon their return to the hospital, Tansey moves on and the others hold on to the memories as Granny succumbs. Multigenerational connections and the importance of family are highlighted in this moving story. Life comes full circle as Mary decides to raise greyhounds as did her great-grandmother Tansey. Reviewer: Shirley Nelson
VOYA - Melissa Moore
Mary is twelve and lives with her family in Dublin. She enjoys life and can be a bit cheeky, but she is a little sad because her granny, Emer, is in the hospital dying. On the way home from school one day, a lady stops Mary—a lady dressed in old-fashioned clothes, who looks a lot like Emer and like Mary's mom, Scarlett. The lady slowly reveals that she is Tansey, Emer's mother who died at age twenty-five of the flu, and that she has come to give a message to Emer, that "it will all be grand." What follows is a tender, multi-generational exploration of what has been, what is, and what will be. Tansey and Emer were farm girls, and it soon becomes clear that a road trip back to the family farm one last time is in order. Along the way, Doyle's characters learn about each other—their dreams, their desires, and their love for one another. This is a quiet novel in spite of the latent humor and Mary's "cheekiness," and it moves at a slower pace. It will be a hard sell to readers, but those who persevere will be rewarded with a greater appreciation for their own personal histories and the tide of history. Reviewer: Melissa Moore
School Library Journal
Gr 5–8—"Cheeky," Dublin-raised Mary O'Hara, 12, is "not a little girl anymore," but she is still a child in many ways. With her beloved grandmother, Emer, dying in the hospital, Mary meets Tansey, her great-grandmother's ghost. Tansey has returned to assure Emer that dying is not so bad and "it'll all be grand." The narrative skips between time periods and the point of view alters among the perspectives of Mary, her mother, Emer, and Tansey. Readers learn that Tansey died of the flu in 1928 when Emer was only three and has been lingering near her ever since. The four generations of women go on a late-night road trip to the old family farm and the sea, a journey that allows them to learn about one another and helps them cope with past and future losses. The Irish dialect may delight some readers but frustrate others. Windows into the past give depth and meaning to each woman's struggle. The theme that love and affection are handed down through generations of women is a bit understated, but that's part of its charm. Occasionally, the frequent dialogue becomes tiresome and reads more like poetry. Pair this book with Jacqueline Kelly's The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate (Holt, 2009). An affecting story about growing up, family, life, and death.—Richelle Roth, Boone County Public Library, KY
Kirkus Reviews
Twelve-year-old Mary O'Hara is surrounded by good-humored women… her mum at home, her mum's mum, who is dying in Dublin's Sacred Heart Hospital, and her mum's mum's mum, who has just materialized as a ghost on her street. That's four generations of Irish women, all whirling about in some state of consciousness or another, and it's enough to make Mary dizzy. Mary is a cheeky girl, like many almost-teenagers, but she's level-headed enough to embrace the ghostly visits from her great-grandmother Tansey, who looks young but "talks old" because she died at age 25 in 1928. Tansey's spirit is sticking around for her dying daughter, Mary's granny, to reassure her "it'll all be grand" in the great beyond and, as it turns out, to join her family for one last tearful, mirthful midnight road trip. Doyle divides up the novel by character, giving readers first-hand glimpses into the nature of each woman through time. In a lovely, lilting Irish dialect, he deftly explores the common threads of their lives through story and memory, from family-owned racing greyhounds to the traumatic dropping of an egg. On the subject of mortality, Mary says, "…it just seems mean." Her mother agrees. "It does seem mean. Especially when it's someone you love." Indeed. A warm, witty, exquisitely nuanced multigenerational story. (Fiction. 10-14)
The Washington Post
At the heart of this affecting novel is a journey that Mary and the three women—two living and one dead—make from the city to the country, from the present to the past, and to the mysterious hinterlands of memory and longing.
—Anna Mundow

Product Details

Abrams, Harry N., Inc.
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
5.10(w) x 7.80(h) x 0.90(d)
500L (what's this?)
Age Range:
8 - 12 Years

Meet the Author

Roddy Doyle is the author of nine novels. He won the Man Booker Prize in 1993 for Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha. His novels have been made into popular films, including The Commitments and The Snapper. He lives and works in Dublin, Ireland.

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A Greyhound of a Girl 3.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 3 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book is touching and absolutely fantastic! I love it! It is very funny too.
Bwitchd3 More than 1 year ago
This book is inspired. Even though it’s set in Ireland and is written with Irish slang, it’s a wonderful and touching story. Each of these women are sparkling and alive, even Tansy. Emer is the type of grandmother that everyone wants to have, she’s cheeky and not afraid to have a laugh, even in the hospital. Although this book was written for young adults, it’s something that every woman, no matter her age, can enjoy. It would also be a brilliant way to spark interest in a child about her distant family.
ClaireFrith More than 1 year ago
This book is a tale about love and loss, and the connection between daughter and mother's. I found this book both funny yet tedious. I loved the cheekiness of Mary, and some of the witty lines that Doyle has included in the dialogue, yet I also found myself struggling to keep my attention focused. This is a ghost story, without being scary. Yet 12-year-old Mary and her mother Scarlett don't seem to be wary or worried that ghost's are real or that one has turned up on their doorstep - they just took it in their stride, which struck me as rather odd. After stealing Mary's dying grandmother from the hospital, they take a trip to the farm she grew up. Doyle has made this book fun and serious all at the same time, I even found myself reading with a (horrible) Irish accent! This book would be perfect for understanding death and the importance of family for a younger child - but adults would love it as well.