Wednesday, June 17, 2015

The Green Road by Anne Enright


I just finished reading The Green Road by Anne Enright. She always delivers a literary punch. So let me tell you a little bit about the book.

Irish matriarch Rosaleen Madigan is rarely happy. She married beneath her station in life. So maybe that is why she carries such deep discontent. She is at times a hypochondriac, a drama queen and narcissist. Her discontent is passed on to her four children in various ways. They have trouble finding love or work or the meaning of life. Anne Enright writes beautifully. Her chapters devoted one by one to each Madigan create psychological portraits with considerable nuance.

However, I found this method jarring at times, especially in the second chapter when we leave Ireland and find ourselves with Don Madigan who as far as we know from the first chapter, longs to become a priest (to his mother's horror). Instead we find him in New York City, dabbling in gay relationships, watching his friends die of AIDS. He has a longtime girlfriend, but as the novel evolves, Don becomes decidedly gay. Constance Madigan is the one child who remains within driving distance of her mother. She marries well and has a brood of children, but battles her weight and hates her body. Hanna Madigan drinks. Emmet Madigan travels the world fighting malaria and other third world issues, never quite committing to any love relationships.

So there is a world of sadness herein, culminating in a family Christmas gathering where all four children return home when Rosaleen, in her 70s, decides to sell the family manse. On said holiday, Rosaleen creates a drama just as she always has, and during this drama, we the readers, become more intimately acquainted with what makes her tick. This catharsis at novel's end feels just right. There are no happily-ever-afters, but everyone evolves a step or two towards a better understanding of themselves. I am of Irish descent and very much enjoyed suffering and sightseeing with these less than perfect, so very human Irish characters.