This Magnificent Desolation
By Thomas O'Malley
(Bloomsbury USA, Hardcover, 9781608192793, 416pp.)
Publication Date: March 19, 2013
Other Editions of This Title: Paperback
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Duncan's entire world is the orphanage where he lives, a solitary outpost on the open plains of northern Minnesota. Aged ten in 1980, he has no memories of his life before now, but he has stories that he recites like prayers: the story of how his mother brought him here during the worst blizzard of the century; the story of how God spoke to him at his birth and gave him a special purpose.
Duncan is sure that his mother is dead until the day she turns up to claim him. Maggie Bright, a soprano who was once the talent of her generation, now sings in a San Francisco bar through a haze of whisky cut with sharp regret. She often finishes up in the arms of Joshua McGreevey, a Vietnam vet who earns his living as part of a tunneling crew seventy feet beneath the Bay. He smells of sea silt and loam, as if he has been dredged from the deep bottom of the world - and his wounds run deep too.
Thrown into this mysterious adult world, Duncan finds comfort in an ancient radio, from which tumble the voices of Apollo mission astronauts who never came home, and dreams of finding his real father.
A heart-breaking, staggering, soaring novel, This Magnificent Desolation allows a child's perspective to illuminate a dark world, and explores the creeping devastation of war, the many facets of loneliness, the redemptive power of the imagination, and the possibility of a kind of grace.
Thomas O'Malley is the author of the novel In the Province of Saints, selected as one of the best books of 2005 by Booklist and the New York Public Library. He earned his MFA at the Iowa Writers' Workshop, and teaches at Dartmouth College. Raised in Ireland and England, O'Malley currently lives in the Boston area.
"A beautiful, floating novel. Thomas O'Malley writes with grace and style and bravery. There is not an ounce of cynicism here. While most of us remain earthbound, O'Malley allows us to believe that we can, at various times, go to an imaginative elsewhere. Even the desolation can have its own magnificence. O'Malley is a great talent, reminiscent of another Irish writer, Sebastian Barry."--Colum McCann