Harper Collins, €11.99
You can choose your friends, but you can't choose your own family. Ciara Geraghty's latest novel adds a new twist on this well-known trope and introduces us to thirtysomething Marianne, a woman with no chosen friends and a long-broken familial situation.
She finds herself in the unfortunate situation of having to move back in with her mother, in Ancaire, their crumbling north county Dublin home, precariously perched by the Irish Sea. She has managed to avoid contact for many years and brings home metaphorical baggage along with limited literal belongings. Their strained relationship causes Marianne to seek isolation, despite the never-ending rotation of visitors, two very different lodgers and a menagerie of animals (including a rooster called Declan, a donkey called Donal, and a gluten-intolerant goat called Gerard).
A childhood trauma is never far from her mind and a needy stray dog is never far from her heels. "Ancaire was like the past itself, reaching through the years to grip her with both hands, to pull her back."
Rita, her eccentric - recovering alcoholic- mother smothers her with unwanted attention and attempts to shake Marianne out of her depression: "Her face was set with determined optimism as well as a thick layer of pan stick. Today, her turban was white, so bright that Marianne felt it might be dangerous to look directly at it."
A motley crew of her mother's self-invented "Get Well Soon" group (a more holistic version of AA) become part of Marianne's new life and Ancaire works its magic.
Geraghty expands the idea of traditional Irish family and instead represents family as a melting pot of blood relatives, fostered lost souls and a network of mismatched, yet supportive acquaintances. A wonderful read with quirky characters, an atmospheric setting and a heart-warming storyline. A five-star retreat from lockdown lethargy.