By Jamie O'Neill
(Scribner, Paperback, 9780743255950, 320pp.)
Publication Date: February 17, 2004
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O'Leary Montagu was born at age twenty-five -- a difficult age, as he himself admits. For the past eleven years, which is as far back as he can remember, O'Leary has been sustained by two people: his girlfriend, Mary, traumatized by O'Leary's neuroses, and Nancy Valentine, author of "Ill Fares the Land." Her memoir of an idyllic childhood in Kilbrack ends as she returns to the village after inexplicable banishment and finds it abandoned.
Now Mary has left him, and O'Leary finds himself homeless and laboring under an ill-starred fate. With his treasured copy of "Ill Fares the Land," he arrives in the dilapidated village of Kilbrack and finds it hasn't been abandoned at all: thin old Downey, the pharmacist, is still dispensing medicines and advice; Nellie Maguire is still languishing in her pub; and stout Mrs. Cuthbert, still frenzied, arranges for O'Leary to marry her daughter, who has vowed to become a nun.
What has happened to Kilbrack? O'Leary's coming will change everything, but in a manner no one -- in his right mind -- could foretell.