Donal Ryan's short stories pick up where his acclaimed novels The Spinning Heart and The Thing About December left off, dealing with dramas set in motion by loneliness and displacement and revealing stories of passion and desire where less astute observers might fail to detect the humanity that roils beneath the surface. Sometimes these dramas are found in ordinary, mundane situations; sometimes they are triggered by fateful encounters or tragic decisions. At the heart of these stories, crucially, is how people are drawn to each other and cling to love when and where it can be found.
In a number of the these stories, emotional bonds are forged by traumatic events caused by one of the characters - between an old man and the frightened young burglar left to guard him while his brother is beaten; between another young man and the mother of a girl whose death he caused when he crashed his car; between a lonely middle-aged shopkeeper and her assistant. Disconnection and new discoveries pervade stories involving emigration (an Irish priest in war-torn Syria) or immigration (an African refugee in Ireland). Some of the stories are set in the same small town in rural Ireland as the novels, with names that will be familiar to Ryan's listeners.
In haunting prose, Donal Ryan has captured the brutal beauty of the human heart in all its failings, hopes, and quiet triumphs.
I can not recommend this collection of short stories higher than brilliant, written by a master at his craft. So in tune to his characters, and his stories’ settings. I was captured by the whole collection, reading almost its entirety in a day. Ryan writing is visceral and dense. These dark and gritty stories gnarled at this reader. The audible performance, beyond a few missed spoken words, was well calibered by voice in tone, pace, accent, and demeanor to the personality as perceived by the performer. This is brilliant AAA all the way.
Donal Ryan has a breathtaking talent for infusing his characters with a desperate, lonesome beauty even as their lives take them on journeys into darkness, and sometimes horror. It is hard to believe that anything could compare with the experience of absorbing every gorgeously constructed sentence on the printed page, but Wayne Farrell's sublime narration provides an experience every bit as satisfying and evocative. Like the best storytellers, Farrell reels in the listener with an authentic Irish voice that is intimate, expressive, and crystal clear. He brings each character into vivid, three-dimensional life, adding just the right amount of emotional color to the unique aspects of Irish phrasing and slang that Ryan captures so well. It is a masterful performance of a brilliantly written work.