cover image The Deposition of Father McGreevy

The Deposition of Father McGreevy

Brian O'Doherty. Turtle Point Press, $25 (416pp) ISBN 978-1-885983-39-8

What was the cause of the destruction of an Irish mountain village? In the fictive memoir that makes up the bulk of this book, the village's priest recounts the macabre events that began with the swift deaths of six women in the winter of 1939, and ended with the village deserted, himself defrocked, others dead, rumors of men copulating with beasts and a man charged with murdering his own son. Father McGreevy vows to be ""as honest as I can in this deposition, and the word can't help but bring to mind the Deposition of Our Lord Himself from the Cross."" Trying to explain what he has seen, he draws on Catholic theology, Irish history and folklore and Irish-language literature. Are his parishioners victims of S (vengeful Irish spirits)? Of the forces fighting in WWII? Of an angry God seeking a sacrificial lamb? The fictitious London editor William Maginn introduces Father McGreevy's manuscript in a prologue set in the 1950s; in two concluding chapters, Maginn interviews the disaster's aged survivors, climbs the mountain where it all happened and meditates on Irish history. O'Doherty (The Strange Case of Mademoiselle P.) works overtime with local color, pathos and religious symbolism in this elaborately constructed homage and elegy to rural, Gaelic Ireland. Lamb (or scapegoat) symbols are everywhere, and Maginn--who annotates McGreevy's account--can be all too eager to help us interpret: ""The dead village, with its lost memories, reached back to similar desolations... "" McGreevy's own style veers between believable dialect and over-the-top stage-Irish (""It was grand to be out in God's good air those summer days that went on forever""). His first-person narration can be hard to take: ""`Is it talking to me you are, Father?' I hit her on the head with a heavy hand. I couldn't help it."" Readers will surely enjoy the history and myth O'Doherty spins out here, however, and the harrowing plot he imagines. (May)