Bedbound in her attic room beneath the falling rain, in the margin between this world and the next, Plain Ruth Swain is in search of her father, Virgil. To find him, enfolded in the mystery of ancestors, Ruthie must first trace the jutting jaw lines, narrow faces, and gleamy skin of the Swains from the restless Reverend Swain, her great-grandfather, to her grandfather Abraham, and finally to Virgil, through wild, rain-sodden history, exploits in pole-vaulting and salmon-fishing, poetry,and the 3,958 books piled high beneath the skylights in her room. Her funny, meandering narrative sings, moves, and irrevocably inspires.
"*Starred Review* From her boat-shaped bed in the attic room of her family's County Clare thatched-roof home, invalid Ruth Swain tries to uncover the secret of her father's tortured life. She is surrounded by the thousands of books he devoured, everything from Dostoyevsky to Dickens, Garcia Marquez to Galsworthy. In the stories of others, Ruth hopes to find her own family's story, which begins with her rigidly religious great-grandfather, who set in motion the Swain quest for impossibly high standards. The failure to meet them will resonate for generations, culminating in the struggles of her father, Virgil, a dreamer and fisherman, the Irish prerequisites for becoming a poet. His inspiration arrived the night Ruth and her twin brother, Aeney, were born; it died the day Aeney drowned. Now housebound with a mysterious ailment, Ruth wants to write her father's story in a book of her own before she dies. You can smell the peat burning and feel the ever-present mist in acclaimed Irish novelist Williams' (John, 2008) luscious paean to all who lose themselves in books. Williams captures the awe and all of Ireland its myths and mysteries, miseries and magic through the pitch-perfect voice of a saucily defiant young woman who has witnessed too much tragedy but who clings devotedly to those she's lost.--Haggas, Carol Copyright 2014 Booklist"
From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission.
Publisher's Weekly Review:
"Playwright, novelist, and nonfiction writer Williams's (Four Letters of Love) new novel has a unique voice and a droll, comic tone that takes a surprising, serious turn. Ruthie Swain collapsed at college ("I have had Something Amiss, Something Puzzling, and We're Not Sure Yet"), and is now confined to her bed at home in Ireland. Her father was a poet who left her an enormous quantity of books when he died, and she tries to find her way back to him through those books. Ruthie has a self-deprecating view of herself and the world, as well as a wry sense of humor. She uses literature to orient herself, searching for and creating connections in theory, while keeping the world around her, and the adoring Vincent Cunningham, at arm's length. The novel's "big secret" is obvious early on, and, therefore, the reveal is more of a relief than a surprise. One never buys that Ruthie is really sick-it comes across more as a Victorian lady's psychosomatic problem than actual illness, even when the doctors sigh and shake their heads over blood work and send her to Dublin for treatment. The energy, tone, and premise of the book work well; the decision to view Ruthie's experiences through the lens of literature pays off. And though the novel doesn't have a strong resolution, Williams makes so many good stylistic and storytelling choices that his latest is well worth the read. (May) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved."
(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved