The Truth Commissioner
By David Park
(Bloomsbury USA, Hardcover, 9781596914568, 384pp.)
Publication Date: March 4, 2008
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A novel that explores the concept of social justice in a moving search for personal and societal truth.As Northern Ireland leaves behind a period of bitter violence, part of the continuing peace process focuses on how best to come to terms with the suffering of the past. David Park illustrates how one solution might take shape by inventing a fictional truth commission, modeled on South Africa’s TRC. Revolving around the lives of four men who are uncomfortably bound together in this communal search for healing, The Truth Commissioner chronicles the Commission’s first hearing, that of Connor Walshe, a fifteen-year-old Irish Catholic boy who disappeared and whose fate has remained a mystery. Three men are called to testify: Francis Gilroy, a newly appointed government minister and former IRA leader; retired policeman James Fenton, who recruited Connor as an informer; and Danny, né Michael Madden, then an eighteen-year old IRA volunteer, who had fled to America, only to be called back to Belfast to testify fifteen years later. Henry Stanfield, of Irish Catholic and English Protestant parentage, presides over the hearing. Selected for his neutrality, Stanfield is forced into the historic web of lies, and the truth, which is shaped by the four men’s different pasts, remains as elusive as ever. An important novel from post-Troubles Northern Ireland, The Truth Commissioner is as gripping as it is insightful and powerfully reveals a shared humanity that transcends the bitter divisions of history.
David Park has published four novels and one volume of stories. He was the winner of the Author’s Club First Novel Award and the Bass Ireland Arts Award for literature, and was twice winner of the University of Ulster’s McCrea Literary Award. His work has appeared in Best English Short Stories, The Best of Best Short Stories, and Contemporary Irish Fiction. He lives in County Downs, Northern Ireland, with his wife and two children.
“Beautifully written, always thoughtful, and readers of serious fiction will find that it remains with them long after they have set the book aside.” —Lincoln Journal Star
“With guile and wonderful imaginative sympathy, Park stays afloat on the most treacherous of thematic currents: the inhumanity of violence, the vulnerability of the individual before history, truth's inextricability from power, the elusive nature of redemption....The central attribute of the writing -- and it's one of the things that make this novel of Ireland of more than parochial interest -- is its conscientiousness. We're reminded that with writers like David Park, the novel can itself be a kind of truth commission.”—New York Times Book Review
“Powerful...Park humanizes all the participants but never backs away from the dark crime at the heart of the narrative—his dispassionate recounting of Connor’s ordeal at the hands of the IRA is both chilling and heartbreaking.”—Booklist (starred)
“Forceful, lyrical, and elegantly written.”—Library Journal
“Park chillingly and entertainingly envisions the entanglements of a South African–style Truth and Reconciliation tribunal in post-Troubles Belfast...the novel is fast-paced and chilling, a pleasing hybrid of literary fiction and political thriller...Intricately constructed and powerful.”—Kirkus Reviews
“Wrenching…soulful...this powerful fiction both humanizes and universalizes the civil war that gripped Ireland for so long.”—Publishers WeeklyPraise for The Big Snow: “David Park…is a writer of consequence, lyrical, precise, comic, and serious.”—Boston Globe “A taut, riveting urban murder-mystery. Park is a superb writer.”—Publishers Weekly (starred review) “A closely observed tale of how transfigured landscapes and familiar yearnings converge…absorbing.” —Washington Post “Lyric eloquence…A moving and unusual novel filled with unexpected encounters and unpredictable outcomes.”—Orlando Sentinel