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Did he punch his boss? Was he strip searched? You decide

A wry and amusing saga on the life and adventures of Joe Henry, an Irish office machine salesman, covering several decades from the mid-1960s. The book is a collection of linked anecdotes on the lows and highs of Joe's life, and, per the author, evolved from a series of stories that were written as his weekly contributions to a writers' circle.

The stories are completely true, embroidered fact or pure fiction and the author challenges "anyone to figure out which parts are which".

Take your choice. Did he punch his boss on the nose? Did he lose his licence, and job, over drunk driving? Did he close Dublin Airport over a bomb scare and was he strip searched? That's just a sample.

Some of the incidents are unbelievable, some all too likely to have happened, a catalogue of misadventure.

Set against a backdrop of the Ireland of the Troubles, Joe emerges in the book as an accident-prone figure with a talent for getting into difficult situations both at home and work.

The rollercoaster married life of the Henrys began with Joe – a Northern Protestant – marrying Susan – a Dublin Catholic – in mid-1960s Ireland over the objections of both sets of parents.

The episode of their courtship and marriage is one of the strongest and most thought- provoking of the book.

Alcohol-induced flashbacks take us selectively through the decades with the recipe of the title Joe's fondness for the drink combined with his tendency, when in a hole, to keep digging.

Susan deservedly earns the epithet "long suffering", but even she has her limits. When finally the worm turns it does so with a vengeance.

As Joe careens from one episode to another, there's a certain inevitability about the eventual outcome.

When it comes, in the book's most impressive chapters, Joe hits rock bottom.

He is forced to confront reality, and, when salvation unexpectedly beckons . . . well, read the book to find out.

Sean Farrell

Indo Review