Memoirist McKenna's debut novel-a pastoral, feel-good yarn set in 1974 County Derry-concerns two Irish 40-somethings who meet through a newspaper Lonely Hearts column. Both farmer Jamie McCloone and schoolteacher Lydia Devine have suffered the recent death of a loved one. Jamie's traumatic childhood at a sweatshop run by the nuns from hell precipitates his dependence on Valium and whiskey. Lydia, meanwhile, grew up under the oppressive thumb of her now-dead rector father and-at age 40, still a virgin who has never tasted alcohol-decides it's time to live a little. The pair, of course, are grossly mismatched-she prim and buttoned-down, he a rough-edged rustic-which is underscored repeatedly during their lengthy postal courtship. Comic relief comes from Jamie's neighbors, the McFaddens, who do their best to aid Jamie and lift him from his saturnine moods. McKenna-who's written a memoir, My Mother Wore a Yellow Dress-places a few twists in the narrative, saving the most startling until the close. (Mar.)Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
The Misremembered Manby Christina McKenna
The Misremembered Man is a beautifully rendered portrait of life in rural Ireland which charms and delights with its authentic characters and gentle humor. This vivid portrayal of the universal search for love brings with it a darker tale, heartbreaking in its poignancy.
Jamie McCloone is a middle-aged Irish farmer of modest means and simple ways. Unmarried and lonely, he lives in bachelor squalor and drinks a little too much at the pub. Lydia Devine, also middle-aged and unmarried, is a schoolteacher living with her judgmental, widowed mother. An upcoming wedding and the specter of once again taking her mother as her date sufficiently motivate Lydia to find a male companion by taking out a personal ad in the local paper. Jamie responds, and they eventually arrange a meeting, with ultimately surprising consequences. In the meantime, we learn about Jamie's abusive upbringing in a Catholic orphanage and Lydia's restrictive childhood under her harshly religious parents. However, the Dickensian horrors of Jamie's childhood are at odds with the sometimes slapstick scenes of his adulthood. And Lydia's grief over the loss of her mother seems greatly exaggerated in comparison to her earlier feelings of annoyance and weariness. But despite these disparities, first-time novelist McKenna (she previously published a memoir, My Mother Wore a Yellow Dress) has created characters that readers will care about, and her lyrical dialog and Irish colloquialisms are a delight to read. Recommended for public libraries.
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James McCloone, Jamie for short, is a forty-one year old bachelor who lives in a farm in the Irish countryside. Jamie, together with his sister, was abandoned as a baby by his mother at the door of an orphanage ruled by nuns. Jamie grew up abused both physically and sexually, and used as a child slave until he was adopted by Alice and Mick McCloone when he was about ten years old. Only then he knew kindness. It's no wonder then that in middle age, Jamie is severely depressed and hasn't been able to connect at a deeper level with any woman. When the wife of a friend suggests that Jamie places an ad in the "lonely hearts" section of a newspaper, he does so and meets a kindred spirit, but with so much emotional baggage, will he find the happiness he deserves? I really liked The Misremembered Man by Christina McKenna, but it was the saddest book I have read in a long while, though very well written. The plot consists of two parallel stories: one with Jamie as an adult, the other describing his everyday life in the orphanage as a child. The part that takes place in the orphanage describes the excessive physical punishments Jamie and his mates endured, while the descriptions of the sexual abuse were implied, mere suggestions. I think is a wonder that with such a level of abuse Jamie grew up to be shy and depressed rather than a menace to his fellow beings. That kind of systematic abuse is a breeding ground for psychotic behavior later in life. Unfortunately as McKenna expresses at the end of the book, despite Jamie being a fictional character, this kind of abuse towards children by members of the Catholic clergy actually took place in Ireland until it was exposed in 1990. Not everything that happens in The Misremembered Man is sad. The modern day part of the story was very funny and so realistic that anyone may have experienced similar situations at one point or another. In summary, The Misremembered Man by Christina McKenna is a poignant story, bittersweet and tragic as only real life can be. You will laugh out loud and most certainly you will cry, but above all, the story and characters will haunt you.
Interesting, wonderful story...one to be remembered.