Softwood Books

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ISBN-10 1399974149 ISBN-13 978-1399974141



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By Mary Heeran White

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A book firmly embedded in its physical space—Ireland's craggy West coast—Mary Heeran White's WILD ATLANTIC WAY ANTHOLOGY is an insider’s exploration of a place that’s complete with wit, culture, and charm.
Embedded in the rugged rural world of Ireland’s west coast, this mixed series of cheeky, witty short stories successfully combines stand out aspects of Ireland’s ancient-meets-modern culture with enchanting tales and playful insight.

The Wild Atlantic Way is an example of modern day tourism branding, but it refers to a specific part of Ireland: the rugged, rural west coast so beloved by tourists and locals, and the long-drive from one end of it to the other. It’s a place that’s sparsely populated and wind-battered, with a unique, old-worldly feel to it that runs a deep seam through the culture even today.

In WILD ATLANTIC WAY ANTHLOLOGY, Mary Heeran White—a writer based in County Clare (smack in the middle of that long drive)—embeds a series of stories in that world, nodding to a range of subjects that run through the heart of Irish culture: land rights, death, the church, addiction and alcohol, family relationships, and the humor and sociability of the local pub.

These short stories, typically a dozen or so pages in length, each tell the tale of a scenario faced—from awkward promises of romance to scamming punters at the racetrack. There are also battles over family inheritance, as well as material about the dynamic that exists between those who stay home and those who fall victim (or victor, depending on your perspective) to the area’s heavy propensity throughout history to produce a flood of emigration.

Written with a subtle Irish wit, the characters here tend to face personal drama with lots of glorious nods to the culture along the way: the lover who emigrates, the black sheep son disconnected from his family, rights around land and labour, the scammers who get scammed, and the rugged, damp-feeling world of the rural cottage.

The result is evocative; there are tales that stay with you, and while the mixed narratives are generally built around specific situations, there are bountiful asides to culture that educate along the way. For instance: the tragic trip to Dublin for a big job interview that’s cursed by the presence of a roadside piseog (a kind of ancient folk spirit that conveys a sense of doom when mistreated).

Although it feels like something of a throwback to the city-based side of the country, the book is a nod to long-established tradition; the sense of community of Ireland’s more rural corners absolutely seep from the pages of what promises to be the first volume of this anthology. The stories and characters themselves find color in their simplicity, as their narratives are told quickly and the tales often swerve in unexpected, comic directions. The authorial voice adequately combines its imagery with the characters’ thoughts, as in this passage: “As his car rattled like a machine gun, trailing blue smoke, Padraig understood the weight of his mission: to convince his uncles of his worthiness, to reinstate his inheritance.” The result is a short, character-led exploration of a part of the world that holds a deep sense of romance for many people. At times, its everyday feel is flipped on its head with magnificent twists.

WILD ATLANTIC WAY ANTHOLOGY is not, perhaps, a book for people who seek a casual glance at this corner of the world. It lives in a realm far from the tourist trail in the title, more tightly embedded in the fields and cottages of everyday life. This is an exploration of people; and, while some of the stories slip by without making too much of an impact, there are at least half a dozen here that carry weight and insight that shine from the pages.

A book firmly embedded in its physical space—Ireland’s craggy West coast—Mary Heeran White’s WILD ATLANTIC WAY ANTHOLOGY is an insider’s exploration of a place that’s complete with wit, culture, and charm.

~James Hendicott for IndieReader

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