cover image The Gamal

The Gamal

Ciarán Collins. Bloomsbury, $17 trade paper (480p) ISBN 978-1-60819-875-7

Collins’s confident debut novel concerns Charlie McCarthy and his friends James Kent and Sinéad Halloran, three teenagers who live in the small town of Ballyronan, Northern Ireland. Charlie, James and Sinéad’s sidekick, is the village “gamal,” an “eejit” whom, he says, people find “less-ish.” “You won’t like me,” he predicts, but his off-kilter voice is incredibly appealing. James and Sinéad are inseparable until rumors surface that Sinéad was raped by a traveling musician known as the Rascal. Or was it consensual? Either way, James is distraught. Because James is distraught, Sinéad is distraught, and their relationship is in danger of falling apart. The drama comes to a head in the worst possible way, and it’s understandable how Charlie comes to suffer from PTSD. (His doctor has convinced him to write out his story as part of the treatment.) Collins takes the familiar coming-of-age storyline of adolescent romance and tragedy and artfully depicts adolescent emotional distress without straying into melodrama. The novel, framed in flashback so that the story emerges through Charlie’s remembrances and transcripts from the resultant hearings, is cannily paced and rich with Irish dialect. Agent: Toby Eady, Toby Eady Associates (U.K.). (July)