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Review: Fiction: In a Moment by Caroline Finnerty

At the centre of Caroline Finnerty's debut novel is a massive vacuum, an unknown event around which the narrative has been carefully organised.

Although the reader is not privy to the details of the tragic event until more than halfway through the novel, its emotionally charged presence is as integral a part of In a Moment as any of its three main characters.

Emma and Adam are a young couple whose marriage is disintegrating. A chasm has opened up between them that threatens to swallow up everything they have worked for over the course of their 10-year relationship.

Their stories are presented as two separate narratives that the reader sees overlapping and intersecting in only the most fleeting of glimpses. Their separation in the novel cleverly mirrors the emotional distance between them; they have been torn apart by the tragic event a year earlier.

Emma is putting in long hours at the ad agency where she works, functioning almost on autopilot having lost the capacity to feel anything but pain and heartbreak.

Adam, who works in the high-gloss corporate world of Dublin's financial district, is struggling to come to terms with Emma's emotionally cut-off state.

After 12 months of this half-life existence, the couple are finally pushed to breaking point and forced to confront the remnants of their shattered marriage.

Meanwhile, the third central character in the novel, Jean, is fighting her own battle -- locked in a physical and emotional struggle with her oldest son Paul, whose life is spinning out of control with frightening consequences.

Then, in a moment, Adam, Emma and Jean's lives become linked and are changed forever.

As a debut, In a Moment is an impressive offering by Caroline Finnerty that plumbs the depths of grief and loneliness while remaining surprisingly upbeat and uplifting.

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Finnerty allows us to slip behind the curtain of silence Emma has pulled across her life, making us privy to her complex grieving process, but her exploration of Adam's mindset is equally as thorough.

Jean's narrative is told mainly from a single perspective, and suffers slightly as a result. Her story is an older and more familiar one, but it still manages to touch the reader.

The whole novel, in fact, wraps itself around the heartstrings and then yanks them like an overzealous bell-ringer.

A great first novel -- just make sure you keep a few boxes of tissues handy.

Rachel Dugan

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