Hood is a powerful and moving story of a hidden, secret grief from Emma Donoghue, the author of Room.
Penelope O'Grady and Cara Wall are risking disaster when, like teenagers in any intolerant time and place - here, a Dublin convent school in the late 1970s - they fall in love. Yet Cara, the free spirit, and Pen, the stoic, craft a bond so strong it seems as though nothing could sever it: not the bickering, not the secrets, not even Cara's infidelities.
But thirteen years on, a car crash kills Cara and rips the lid off Pen's world. Pen is still in the closet, teaching at her old school, living under the roof of Cara's gentle father, who thinks of her as his daughter's friend. How can she survive widowhood without even daring to claim the word? Over the course of one surreal week of bereavement, she is battered by memories that range from the humiliating, to the exalted, to the erotic, to the funny. It will take Pen all her intelligence and wit to sort through her tumultuous past with Cara, and all the nerve she can muster to start remaking her life.
"I'm blithering, amn't I?" asks Pen O'Grady, narrator of Donoghue's second novel (after Stir-Fry). Many readers will answer "yes"--and that's a shame, because behind Pen's banal chattiness lies an agreeable and affecting story. Thirty-year-old Dublin schoolteacher Pen has just lost her lover of 13 years, Cara Wall, in a car crash. Though mapping the trajectory of Pen's grief seems Donoghue's primary aim, she also explores issues untouched by death: Will Pen bed Cara's sexy older sister, Kate, who's flown home from America for the funeral? Will Pen find the courage to come out to her mother and to Cara's father? Quotidian tails of housecleaning and coffee-brewing share space, sometimes too much, with tender and troubling flashbacks of life with the flame-haired, faithless Cara, whom Pen first seduced on their convent-school roof. Donoghue's unsentimental examination of the complex relationship between the two women is a pleasure, but the story line, lacking dramatic tension, ultimately sags under the weight of Pen's wordiness. U.K., translation, dramatic rights: Caroline Davidson, London.