cover image The Spinning Heart

The Spinning Heart

Donal Ryan. Steerforth, $15 trade paper (160p) ISBN 978-1-58642-224-0

The winner of the Guardian First Book Award features a chorus of voices telling the story of an Irish village undergoing a post-recession crisis and evokes Faulkner’s As I Lay Dying, right down to a section narrated by a recently deceased character. At the center is Bobby Mahon, a building foreman who discovers, as the book opens, that his boss has “shafted” him and his coworkers, cheating them of a pension and disappearing after the housing boom goes bust. Bobby’s decency is admired by everyone, and it underpins the novel: the belief in Bobby’s good nature seems to unite these people, to serve as a salve on the wounds of economic collapse. As rumors spread that Bobby is having an affair and that he has killed his loathed father, and as a child disappears, the villagers will need to marshal their faith in him. Equal parts mournful and hopeful, the book pays keen attention to the ways lives coalesce and fall apart in time of personal and national crises. Even as some of the voices seem extraneous, added for color but little else, Ryan has created a faithful portrait of a time and place in his debut novel, but his truest accomplishment lies in the fact that, though the individual accounts add up to a greater whole, each story stands on its own. (Mar.)