Sudden Times

Dermot Healy, Author, Drenka Willen, Editor Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (HMH) $23 (352p) ISBN 978-0-15-100578-9
Already recognized as one of Ireland's best contemporary writers, Healy (Goat Song; The Bend for Home) makes good his reputation with this explosive, if somewhat truncated, third novel. In vivid, disjunctive prose, the sentences short and tumbling, Healy, who also writes plays and poetry, thrusts the reader into the life of Ollie Ewing, a young Irish man struggling to stay this side of madness after an unspecified, horrific experience in London. Once a carpenter, Ollie is making a new life for himself in Sligo, Ireland: working as a stock boy in a supermarket, settling into an apartment with a group of artists and occasionally going to visit his mother in a rural town farther north. But these seemingly easy transitions are made agonizing by Ollie' s recurrent nightmares and fragmented memories. Ollie's younger brother, Redmond, and his pal, Marty, whose grisly fates are slowly revealed, appear most often in the flood of violent images, amid glimpses of immigrant worker life in London and a seamy underworld ruled by the menacing Silver John. Healy flips back and forth from past to present and into dreams like a cardsharp shuffling a deck, revealing just enough about Ollie's trauma to make the reader avidly turn pages in search of new clues. The only problem is that he shows his hand too soon. In the second half of the novel, Healy abruptly shifts to a more straightforward account of Ollie's London past and the events that have estranged him from his father. Although this section is competently written, with good sharp dialogue, its tension and emotional resonance flag in comparison to the furious early chapters. Nonetheless, Healy's novel remains an exceptionally gripping exploration of a young man's struggle with his conscience and the mistakes of his past. (Aug.)
Reviewed on: 07/31/2000
Release date: 08/01/2000
Paperback - 341 pages - 978-1-86046-730-1
Open Ebook - 352 pages - 978-1-4464-7543-0
Hardcover - 288 pages - 978-1-86046-681-6
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