Viking. May 2011. c.224p. ISBN 9780670022878. $25.95. F
In Doyle's second short story collection, his unparalleled mastery of dialog and characterization pulses through 13 selections that deal with working men in midlife. A compelling sameness runs throughout these stories, which feature declining health, the mystery of fatherhood, and mostly comfortable domesticity, but in each tale Doyle adjusts his unifying theme in subtle ways to reveal startling moments of confusion and clarity. In the stunning title story, for example, four Dublin friends bound by shared history and habit vacation in Spain. They fall into a routine that resembles an extended version of their weekly gatherings at a local pub. This familiarity, though, is both disrupted and affirmed when the friends face a bull doomed to die in agony.
VERDICT Doyle's storytelling brilliance is evident on every page of this work. His exploration of how history shapes individual lives is particularly rewarding here, and many characters mention living through church scandals, the heady days of the Celtic Tiger, and two recessions. Their equilibrium, suggests Doyle, balances on shared suffering and hopes that resist these turbulences. Essential Doyle. [See Prepub Alert, 12/13/10.]

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