Donal Ryan returns with a collection of short stories, following his excellently received The Spinning Heart and The Thing About December. This collection has all of the wisdom of the depth of human experience we’ve come to expect from his work.
It features a story about a man just after coming out of jail with his family and feeling that prison has changed him. It turns out he killed a loved one after driving too fast. What follows is surely an example of forbidden passion, something that would surely be frowned upon.
Later we have the story of a man talking of a murder, where a group joined up to help a friend kill the man who raped his daughter. It shows the effect this had on him and he’s certainly aware that it didn’t help the girl who later killed herself. He talks of people losing their faculties in a care home and struggling with memory. Care homes recur in the book as and there really are some quite disturbing stories featuring death and abuse.
He gets into the soul of people. A story of physiotherapy can reveal so much about a life, getting into the promise of marriage, a love affair and the death of a son. We get to see the horror of war in story too, showing death all around and featuring commentary about the people that feel death is necessary.
It’s not all dark though. One story talks about the beauty in the world that can keep someone going, like a story, a book, a friend, a family member. Another has a character feeling everything he’s ever said is still floating around, as indeed is every sound ever made. There’s beautiful stuff here, like the talk of the distance between people and lost connection.
This is a stunning collection, with Ryan hitting all the right notes and getting into the deeper parts of the soul. There’s so much expressed in each and every story and the overall collection underlines his supreme talent once again.