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In the Province of Saints    by Thomas O'Malley order for
In the Province of Saints
by Thomas O'Malley
Order:  USA  Can
Little, Brown & Co., 2005 (2005)

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* *   Reviewed by Barbara Lingens

The heartbreak of rural Ireland and the poor souls who live there has never been so painfully described as in this work. Michael's mother is sick, and his father has left for America. Michael and his twin sister must grapple not only with the cold and hunger of it all, but also with the whisperings of the villagers. A young boy learns many things over the course of about five years, but none more important than love and loss.

More a meditation than a novel, In the Province of Saints is a beautifully written work. That part of Ireland that is all sheep and bog and river and rain comes fully alive, as does the hard work it takes to make a life there, how difficult it is to make ends meet, and how easy it is to be discouraged. Even the battles with Northern Ireland, though far off, have disastrous consequences to the timeless village life.

The only joy here is in nature, and O'Malley renders its living presence in vivid imagery throughout the unfolding of this haunting tale. At three hundred pages, this book is a bit shorter than Angela's Ashes but so much more serious.

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