Dead Dogs

Joe Murphy, Author
Joe Murphy. Liberties (Dufour, dist.), $24.95 (256p) ISBN 978-1-907593-45-1
Reviewed on: 12/24/2012
Release date: 12/01/2012
Open Ebook - 110 pages - 978-1-907593-63-5
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The opening pages of Murphy’s second novel (after 1798: Tomorrow the Barrow We’ll Cross) make the central premise clear: “Seán does stuff to things. To birds and cats and dogs... Seán is not well.” Anchoring the story is Seán Galvin’s unnamed best mate, who narrates. He and Seán are high school classmates in County Wexford, outcasts in their community in southwest Ireland: the narrator because of his sensitivity and intelligence; Seán because he’s a sociopath struggling to control his murderous, destructive impulses (mostly directed toward animals). But what really bonds the pair is poverty and the loss of their mothers. As Seán’s violent outbursts grow more threatening, the two seek help, only to witness a murder, which makes the walls of their town close in on them even more. Despite the decidedly gloomy premise, Murphy’s novel is full of gallows humor and pathos, and rooted firmly in Tana French’s boom-bust Ireland, a country “misshapen and bawling and coated in concrete dust.” In the tradition of many Irish writers, Murphy’s language is as important as the narrative (a narrative that at times reveals a lack of imagination). Despite all the madness, this is at heart a smart examination of the lonely struggles of being a teenager. (Feb. 23)
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