WINNER OF THE BAILEYS' WOMEN'S PRIZE FOR FICTION 2016
WINNER OF THE DESMOND ELLIOT PRIZE 2016
We all do stupid things when we're kids.
Ryan Cusack's grown up faster than most - being the oldest of six with a dead mum and an alcoholic dad will do that for you.
And nobody says Ryan's stupid. Not even behind his back.
It's the people around him who are the problem. The gangland boss using his dad as a 'cleaner'. The neighbour who says she's trying to help but maybe wants something more than that. The prostitute searching for the man she never knew she'd miss until he disappeared without trace one night . . .
The only one on Ryan's side is his girlfriend Karine. If he blows that, he's all alone.
But the truth is, you don't know your own strength till you need it.
Winner of the 2016 Baileys Prize, Irish author McInerney serves up an aptly titled debut novel that is biting, brash, and bleak. Set in Cork during the recent recession, the story revolves around the murder of a young sot named Robbie O'Donovan, who is accidentally done in by the religious relic wielding mother of notorious crime boss Jimmy Phelan. To cover his mother's mistake, Phelan hires a Tony, a "cleaner," to sort out the mess, but he is a widower and an abusive drunk with six kids. Soon Tara Duane, Tony's gossip-mongering ex-madam neighbor, gets involved, as does one of Tara's old employees, Georgie a coke snorting, on-again/off-again prostitute who half-heartedly searches for her disappeared ex-boyfriend, Robbie O'Donovan, while biding time with a religious cult to maybe get clean. Overly circuitous at times, the violence-riddled story flails under the weight of its complex setup in parts, but the sections involving Tony's teenage son, Ryan, pick up the slack. The scenes describing Ryan's earnest and sex-fueled relationship with his girlfriend are some of the most authentic and engaging in this gritty book, as is the boy's free fall into drug dealing and debauchery after shouldering one too many of his father's goofs. McInerney displays a clear knack for dramatic flourish and witty turns of phrase.