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Donal Ryan
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All We Shall Know

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message 1: by Eric (last edited Jul 04, 2017 09:30AM) (new)

Eric Anderson (LonesomeReader) | 15 comments Mod
All We Shall Know
Melody Shee is alone and in trouble. Her husband doesn't take her news too well. She doesn't want to tell her father yet because he’s a good man and this could break him. She’s trying to stay in the moment, but the future is looming – larger by the day – while the past won’t let her go. What she did to Breedie Flynn all those years ago still haunts her.
It’s a good thing that she meets Mary Crothery when she does. Mary is a young Traveller woman, and she knows more about Melody than she lets on. She might just save Melody’s life.
Donal Ryan’s new novel is breathtaking, vivid, moving and redemptive.

Let us know your thoughts about this book plus any questions, reactions or topics of discussion you'd like us to talk about in the book club video we'll record together.


Mimi (a.k.a Ellen) (MimiLovesToKnit) | 10 comments What makes a book your favorite for the year? I've never been able to fully answer that question except that you know it when you read it. This is my best book of the year, and even beat (by a nose) Maggie O'Farrell's This Must be the Place.

It's the writing, And again I can't place my finger on it, except maybe, to say it's Irish. But whatever it was, it had me riveted until I turned the last page. Ryan reminds me of Claire Keegan in the way he tells a story. It's a lot of stream of consciousness interrupted by a series of important visits with her husband, father, a new special friend, in laws, etc. Each exchange is important to the meaning of the book and, ultimately drives the decisions Melody makes.

This is a 5+ star book and one I will miss reading. It's also one that could benefit a second reading, after you know the ending.

SPOILERS FROM HERE ON--Don't look unless you've read

Melody is an incubator, both as she is having a baby and she is trying to think about how to "fix" her life. I can say only that the ending of this book can be understood and sanctioned if it's about Melody trying to gain redemption from her "sins". Any other reading would make me find the ending unrealistic and something one would not necessarily do in 2017.

The feminist in me balks at the notion that Melody is a sinner. She is carrying a baby that is not her husband's, and that's not ideal, of course. The community around her shuns her and while her husband is not an angel, she is the one to blame. Of course, women suffer more sexism due to the fact that her "sin" is visible and her husband's is not. This is modern Ireland, but yet still a place (not uniquely) that thinks black and white.

Melody also has the "sin" of the betrayal of her friend in childhood. And while it was the father's crime that ultimately kills the daughter, Melody takes the blame. Children don't have the capacity to understand these perversions. It wasn't her fault but she takes it on, even years later when the father wants to protect himself. Maybe we all would.

She feels guilty about how she ignored her father in childhood.

And last, Melody feels guilty about her marital situation (pre-pregnancy), yet they both engaged in the same verbal abuse. They were young and started it very early in their teens and had an addiction to each other. Melody says that maybe the pregnancy and her husband's seeing prostitute was a good thing because it broke them apart when they didn't have the courage to do it themselves.

Enter Mary (and why did they have to say her full name all the time?? Maybe to distinguish her from Mary, mother of God?). Melody knows in her heart that Mary will save her. And in the end she did as it wrapped up Melody's story having made amends to all her fraught relationships. Mary dreamed of having a child. I'm not exactly sure of why Martin was chosen--except,well--he was the real father. And she atoned for her relationship with her lonely father by living with him and having Mary live there too, whom he loved.

So you can see why I feel this was about redemption and atoning for sins. Can we Irish Catholics ever be released from guilt!! It is fascinating in this day and age for Melody to feel such guilt. I thought we worked this notion of sin out of our vocabulary. But of course it is not wrong to try to make amends with people you love. As I said, the ending would make no sense; most women don't give their babies away these days; why give you baby to a loving, but often violent and oppressed group; would going back to her husband, really, work now? Could she have their babies without longing?

Anyway, let me know what you think.


Mimi (a.k.a Ellen) (MimiLovesToKnit) | 10 comments Have been thinking in the few weeks since I've read this: what does the title mean?


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