cover image True Believers

True Believers

Joseph O'Connor. Flamingo, $0 (247pp) ISBN 978-1-85619-074-9

In this collection of well-written short stories, Irish writer O'Connor ( Cowboys and Indians ) links together a series of tales concerning such domestic crises as abortion, infidelity and separation. The most exciting is ``The Long Way Home,'' a title with a Celtic ring but a plot reminiscent of a Rod Serling scenario, in which a man leaves his wife one night and picks up a very strange hitchiker. Most of the protagonists are Irish men or women considering big changes in their lives. Some look to England for it, as in ``Last of the Mohicans'' and ``Mothers Were All the Same,'' and almost all are detached from the familiar landscape of Irish fiction. (For once, pubs are left out of the picture, although there is considerable drinking.) An exception is ``The Hills Are Alive,'' which examines the strange double life of IRA volunteer Danny Sullivan. O'Connor's style is terse and graphic, attuned to the voices of his young characters. At times, as in the title story, ``True Believers,'' it proves a powerful literary tool; more often it shows off a tiresome alienation that works well when a story's plot is strong enough to justify it, but sags when the story is no more thna a portrait of several sad characters, as in ``The Bedouin Feast.'' (Mar.)