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"The Gathering" by Anne Enright

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The occasion of her brother's death triggers a harrowing spiral of memory and soul-searching in Veronica Hegarty, a 39-year-old Dublin wife and mother. Veronica comes from a family of 12 children, but it is not a particularly close family. Veronica, her (now dead) brother Liam, and little sister Kitty were shunted off together to live with their grandmother for extended stretches of their childhoods. During these stays in a Dublin neighborhood called Broadstone, Veronica and her brother suffer at the hands of their grandmother's landlord.

In "The Gathering" Anne Enright captures in the first person the oblique, lurching brush with madness induced in the surviving sister - a stunning achievement. The sentences in this novel - the recorded thoughts of an angry, haunted woman - rush and burrow and spike their way into Veronica's and our conscious view. Veronica struggles her way through a crisis, and decides after a half-hearted attempt at running away, that maybe she'll embrace her life.

The language in "The Gathering" slowly and subtly gains clarity, perfectly reflecting the hero/narrator's state of mind. The dramatic internal dialogue is the V-8 engine roaring under the hood of this suped-up vehicle. Don't look for an intricate plot; the intricacies here involve the internal struggle to come to grips with a highly toxic past - some of us succeed and some don't. Veronica's brother Liam committed suicide under the burden.

Ms. Enright has written a remarkable book in a way that defies expectation or definition or classification. It's a highly personal, scary, death-defying journey that won the Man Booker Prize, and for this reviewer, there is no wonder in that at all.
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