The Wren, the Wren

Norton. Sept. 2023. 288p. ISBN 9781324005681. $27.95. F
The women of the McDaragh family have poor taste in men. In ’50s Dublin, Terry falls madly for Phil, an aspiring poet. Their brief and stormy marriage ends when Terry becomes ill. Unable to handle the crisis, Phil abandons her and their young daughters, parlaying his middling fame into a faculty job and a new life in the United States. A few decades on, daughter Carmel, somewhat indifferent to men, finds herself pregnant after a one-night stand. Nevertheless, she embraces single motherhood with a fiercely protective love for her daughter, Nell. Later yet, Nell’s bad choice in men is the bullying Felim, who casually uses and abuses her. Their breakup sends her into a tailspin of depression and a globe-trotting life to escape her unhappiness.
VERDICT This generational story alternates between Nell and Carmel, with a little time out for Phil and his poetry. Channeling her inner Sally Rooney as twentysomething Nell, Booker Prize winner Enright (The Gathering) is as convincing as when writing about Carmel, a woman closer to her own age. A poignant novel by a writer in peak form.
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