The Green Road tells the story of the Madigan family of West Clare. We first see them through the eyes of the youngest child, Hanna. She watches her siblings falter into adulthood and her mother, Rosaleen, take dramatically to her bed when her elder brother announces he is going to be a priest. We see Hanna’s small, predictable world, and we also understand things that Hanna, as a child, does not.
Later we get to know the other siblings. Across continents and decades, they struggle to escape their upbringing. But even thirty years on, Rosaleen is not so easily denied. Manipulative, passionate and needy, she decides to bring the children home.
I really enjoyed this book. The different worlds of the characters – Dublin, Mali, New York – are each beautifully rendered. We see how Ireland and the wider world change through the decades. Passing the narration between people and periods also leaves the story room to breathe. You are left to imagine what has happened to a character since we last heard from them, what has led them to change – or fail to.
The prose is earthy and full of the richness and friction of life with other people. Enright can wring atmosphere from an old curtain or the echo of a stranger’s voice.
There are some funny moments, and some painful ones, particularly when the four children are reunited. On the one hand they are almost strangers. On the other they quickly revert to childhood dynamics. Memories come unbidden, resentments are rekindled. And then they sit down to Christmas dinner.
The reunion theme has parallels with Enright’s The Gathering. However, this is a more gentle and forgiving book (and definitely a better structured one). There is some darkness, but there is also humour and hope.
I received a copy of The Green Road from the publisher via Netgalley.
View The Green Road on Goodreads