Enter Liam O’Donnell. In stories both humorous and harrowing, McLaughlin often focuses on this boy from the north of Ireland, living in Scotland. The zigzag structure of the book means every second story returns to Liam as he navigates growing up, away from his home town and wider family. A unique take on Ireland and Scotland, the Troubles, and religion is the result. In “big trouble,” the O’Donnell “weans” stage a memorable cross between an Orange walk and a civil rights march. Bloody Sunday is later experienced as a series of phone calls. Punctuating the Liam stories are other haunting tales from McLaughlin’s universe. With his keen ear and remarkable compassion, McLaughlin—also an acclaimed translator—is one of the brightest lights of European fiction.
“The language is consistent and wonderful, evoking something I have not yet seen in our literature–the meld of Scottish and Northern Irish. It is both a chasm and a bridge…I feel like I have stepped into a secret, although I’m not entirely sure what secrets I should or should not know” – Colum McCann
“The rhythm king of Scottish fiction” – The Observer
“McLaughlin’s ear for dialogue is also visual, if that’s possible: his Northern Irish characters adhere to exclamation points like a mark of identity, and accumulatively they give the world of the growing Liam O’Donnell a forceful, yet also humorous, masculinity as he negotiates his way over the twin peaks of politics and family” – Lesley McDowell, The Scotland Herald