Marsha's Reviews > The Butcher Boy

The Butcher Boy by Patrick McCabe
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's review
Apr 25, 2012

really liked it
bookshelves: literature-fiction
Read in March, 2010

Literature is filled with monsters: the charming young near-prostitute Lolita and her even more loathsome sugar daddy Humbert Humbert, the self-absorbed Cécile of “Bonjour Tristesse”, the scent prodigy Jean-Baptiste Grenouille, the urbane cannibal Hannibal Lecter. Why readers become enthralled with these creatures is unclear, ill defined and perhaps illuminates a quality in ourselves we don’t want to examine too closely.

Mr. McCabe’s Francie Brady is just such a human beast. Only partially educated and vilely neglected, Francie Brady is living a chaotic life, one formed of hallucinations, fierce nostalgia and a refusal to outgrow his childish whims and yearnings. Everyone is whispering about him but no one is willing to talk to him and let him know how matters truly stand. His mother was dragged out of a pond after he ran away from home but no one says that it’s suicide. Francie was taken away to a correctional facility for boys where he was molested by a priest, but he never calls it molestation. This is a wretched teen who needs only a touch to be tipped into madness and crime.

Told in vernacular that requires careful reading to piece out at times, Francie is both a product of his cramped existence and sad upbringing. It is a stark and terrifying portrayal about how a person can fall through the cracks of the world without being able to escape it entirely. Mr. McCabe has crafted an unforgettable character, one that will have people looking about them uneasily after they’ve read it, wondering just how close are the Francie Bradys in their neighborhoods.
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