I am currently reading my way through a long list of science fiction and fantasy titles. (http://www.npr.org/2011/08/07/138938145/science-fiction-and-fantasy-finalists if you are interested in the list).
Spanning thirty years and three continents, The Green Road tells the story of Rosaleen, matriarch of the Madigan family, and her four children.
Ardeevin, County Clare, Ireland. 1980. When her oldest brother Dan announces he will enter the priesthood, young Hanna watches her mother howl in agony and retreat to her room. In the years that follow, the Madigan children leave one by one: Dan for the frenzy of New York under the shadow of AIDS; Constance for a hospital in Limerick, where petty antics follow simple tragedy; Emmet for the backlands of Mali, where he learns the fragility of love and order; and Hanna for modern-day Dublin and the trials of her own motherhood. When Christmas Day reunites the children under one roof, each confronts the terrible weight of family ties and the journey that brought them home. The Green Road is a major work of fiction about the battles we wage for family, faith, and love.
This is not a book you read for the plot, because there isn’t much plot. This is a book that you read for the characters and the beauty of the language. If you can’t hear the lilt of the Irish accent when you read these words, you aren’t paying attention.
One of the blurbs on the cover compares Enright to Alice Munro, and I would have to second that impression. The Green Road is all about family relationships—Rosaleen and her four children and their success or lack thereof. It’s true that when you go home to the childhood home, it’s next to impossible not to slip back into childhood patterns, no matter how much your life has changed when you are out in the world. Enright examines each life in a tough, beautiful way—not a word wasted, but everything is expressed anyway.
Read it for the perfection of the words, for the lilt of the Irish accent, for the simple complexity of the people.