Hawk Flies Above: Journey to the Heart of the Sandhills

Eoin McNamee, Author, Lisa Dale Norton, Author Picador USA $21 (0p) ISBN 978-0-312-14641-2

McNamee made quite a splash with his first novel, Resurrection Man, about a violent, oddly noble and preternaturally astute hoodlum from Belfast. Most impressive was the young Irish author's command of a kind of poetic reverie that transformed sectarian violence and petty thievery into rituals with near-operatic grandeur. In the first of the two novellas collected here, McNamee works over much of the same ground, detailing the squalid lives of young ""Taigs"" (Catholics) and ""Prods"" caught in a death grip in Northern Ireland. The succession of betrayals and paybacks that characterize what passes for social interaction among Deeds, the Catholic narrator and the narrator's dangerous Protestant girlfriend is gut-wrenching and horrific. And McNamee, though not with the white-hot intensity of his novel, writes with originality at every turn, situating the action at a putrescent dockside that is Dantesque in its evocation of fated suffering. The second work, ""Love in History,"" is more ambitious than the first, moving back in time to a WWII U.S. Navy barracks located in Ireland and striving for a subtler effect akin to that of the stories in Joyce's Dubliners. This sad tale of a mad priest's intercession in the affairs of local Irish women and the Yanks who love (and leave) them sometimes sends McNamee out of his element, but it also shows that he has designs, perhaps, on an imaginative landscape that harbors more than just ""the Troubles"" of his homeland. (Nov.)
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