A collection of fifteen stories, Jean McGarry’s No Harm Done, depicts family life at its worst, best, and funniest, as if the author had conjoined the lunacy of Cold Comfort Farm with the bitter grievances of Dubliners. As the author writes in “Strong Boy,” this might be “…because every family, rich or poor, is roughage.”
The characters, gallant, goofy, gifted, and grim, include sickly mothers of a dozen children, boozy fathers with a gift of the gab, kids aspiring to be nuns and priests, or just to get out of town with a whole skin.
A section is devoted to one marriage made in heaven: a Jewish psychoanalyst devoted to his ex-nun wife. Another set of stories reworks familiar fairy tales, setting them in the wild present. No Harm Done (whose title is Irish code for wishful thinking) concludes with a truce to the war between the sexes, and indeed a ‘solution’ to the tragicomedy that is marriage and family.
No Harm Done is Jean McGarry’s ninth book. She has published novels, novellas, and story collections, including Ocean State, A Bad and Stupid Girl, and Airs of Providence, her first. A Rhode Island native, McGarry is Elliott Coleman Professor of Fiction in The Writing Seminars at Johns Hopkins University.