cover image Nine Folds Make a Paper Swan

Nine Folds Make a Paper Swan

Ruth Gilligan. Tin House (Norton, dist.), $15.95 trade paper (352p) ISBN 978-1-941040-49-2

Gilligan makes a stellar U.S. debut with this wistful and lyrical multigenerational tale linking the struggles of two immigrant Jewish families in Dublin with an Irish Catholic woman’s complicated relationship with her Jewish lover. The book is narrated by the three central characters: Ruth, who emigrates with her family from Lithuania in 1901 and winds up in Cork; Shem, struck mute after discovering his adored mother’s shocking secret, and then institutionalized in 1958; and Aisling, a journalist expat in London in 2011 who must decide whether to convert to Judaism to marry boyfriend Noah. These characters long for acceptance and freedom within the rigid strictures of culture and religion. Gilligan weaves a mesmerizing blend of plot and character while exploring themes of assimilation and displacement, suggesting what binds us all is storytelling; a book on Jewish conversion links Aisling and Sham, while Ruth, as a midwife, reprises her aspiring playwright father’s “forgotten ideas” and “all the little Irish snippets” of her youth. Agent: Dorian Karchmar, WME Entertainment. (Jan.)