In the Name of the Wolf

John F. Deane, Author
John F. Deane, Author Blackstaff Press $17.95 (172p) ISBN 978-0-85640-640-9
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Repression and fear of the outside world mark the characters of Irish writer Deane's (Flightlines) gloomy third novel, in which he uses a character with lupus to explore the metaphoric, psychological and social paradoxes of this debilitating disease. In western Ireland, in the xenophobic atmosphere of the 1940s, Patty O'Higgins is born in a van at the side of the road. Her father reads Poe at her christening, and from this beginning, Patty's life only gets more difficult. As she comes of age, she develops a progressive and at-first unnamable illness whose onset parallels that of the mysterious disappearance and murder of sheep on the local mountain. Moreover, Patty's face becomes increasingly distorted into wolflike features. Given that some of the superstitious villagers still believe in banshees, it's not long before the more lycanthropic-minded start spinning tales: the sheep are being killed not just by ordinary wolves--in a country that hasn't had wolves in centuries--but rather by werewolves. Their rampant paranoia increasingly focuses on Patty. Deane neatly captures both the claustrophobic and comforting essences of village life, and his compact, supple prose has a poetic resonance (he won the O'Shaughnessy Prize for Irish Poetry in 1998). While acknowledging the universal human need to name things in order to put a face on fear, this strange tale with its brooding characters will not appeal to all tastes. Still, Patty's grace about her affliction and her belief in goodness and love, despite evidence to the contrary, shine a beacon on what is otherwise a grim walk in the woods. (Feb.)
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