In his first novel, Irish playwright and stand-up comedian O'Carroll mines the same material (Irish humor and gritty upbringing) as the novels that spawned the movies he's acted in: Roddy Doyle's The Van and the upcoming film version of Frank McCourt's Angela's Ashes. A tribute to O'Carroll's mother, the narrative is set in the working-class Dublin of the 1960s, where Agnes Browne (the Mammy) works a fruit and vegetable stall with her best friend, Marion Monks, but dreams of dancing with suave singer Cliff Richard. And Agnes needs all the romance she can get as a sexually na ve, newly widowed beauty raising seven kids on her own. Agnes helps her eldest son, Mark, negotiate puberty and search for a job, while defending her other children from sadistic nuns, gossipy neighbors, depression and each other. She also finds time to date the Frenchman who owns the local pizza parlor. When Marion is diagnosed with cancer, she and Agnes get as daring as their stations in life allow: Marion takes driving lessons and Agnes tries to buy a ticket to a Cliff Richard concert. By novel's end, each has made peace with her dreams. Like stand-up comics, the characters here are more clever and glib than ordinary people, but these Dubliners are also irresistibly charming as they face their daily scrapes and heartbreaks. Tales of working-class Irish life now fill bookshelves, but there's space aplenty for O'Carroll's sturdy contribution. (May) FYI: The Mammy launches a trilogy that will include future Plume titles The Chisellers and The Granny. Meanwhile, O'Carroll will appear in a film version of The Mammy starring Anjelica Huston.
Reviewed on: 05/03/1999 Release date: 05/01/1999 Genre: Fiction