Paula Spencer

Roddy Doyle, Author . Viking $24.95 (281p) ISBN 978-0-670-03816-9

The heroine of Doyle's 1996 bestseller, The Woman Who Walked into Doors , returns long widowed (abusive husband Charlo having been killed fleeing the Irish police) and four months sober. Those absences and old relationships mark the year we follow in Paula's new life: she worries that her daughter, Leanne, is following in her footsteps; negotiates her resentment of her bossy older daughter, Nicola; and reconciles with her son, John Paul, now a recovering heroin addict with two kids of his own. Doyle, Booker Winner for Paddy Clark Ha Ha Ha and author of The Commitments , does a lot in this novel by doing little: it is John Paul's quiet distance, for example, that serves as a constant reminder of the horrendous mother and pitiful alcoholic Paula used to be. The newfound prosperity of Ireland affects Paula's day-to-day life on the bottom of the economic scale—which suddenly looks a lot different. Paula's inner life lacks subtler shades, and her outer life is full of tiring work, abstinence from liquor and family. These aren't elements that automatically make for a have-to-read novel, but in this wholly and vividly imagined case, they do. (Jan.)

Reviewed on: 10/16/2006
Release date: 01/01/2007
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