Everything In This Country Must

Everything in This Country Must - Colum McCann

Everything In This Country Must is quite simply too short.

The title story only lasts 23 minutes. I am listening to the audiobook performance. Yes, it feels like a performance, not the reading of a story! The narration by Clodagh Bowyer, in her young feminine Irish patois, was fantastic. The book’s narrator is a fifteen year old. Her perception of the event is that of a young Catholic Irish girl. She saw the body of the male swimmer. That is what she would see. She saw the agony and frustration of her father. She saw both, and there she stands wondering how one reconciles the two! Politics and religion and culture all mirrored in one short episode. I end up frustrated because I want more! I have been given a beautiful snapshot!

The second story lasts only 26 minutes, narrated by Paul Nugent. This story shows the other side, a Presbyterian family living in Northern Ireland. The point of contention is here within the family. Secrets. Still, very, very Irish! I am less sure what McCann is trying to tell us, but the small details create a picture that you feel rather than see. The short remarks, which can scarcely be called dialog, capture the mood perfectly. Another snap-shot, but less satisfying because I don’t know what is being said.

Awfully glad that the next track is two hours and forty minutes long. Something to bite into and hold a while…. This one is narrated by Sean Gormley. Beautiful. That is the best adjective to describe this. McCann knows how to capture a person, that person’s cultural identity, age, family, circumstances and what makes that person who he is. He knows how to capture the wonderful in the sorrowful. He knows how to make you draw parallels between the book’s characters and your own loved ones. The main character is a Catholic, 13 years old and Irish. The setting is, I would guess, in the early 1980s. The themes are sexual awakening, family relationships, friendship and of course the religious/political strife that so characterizes Northern Ireland. You don’t have to be interested in the political theme to love this book. Any mother who has had a 13 year old son will relate to this book. It is believable, it is sweet, and it is hard. This too is a snap shot, of a few weeks in a thirteen-year-old's life. Do you remember swimming with your young adolescent son, splashing water, the cold air, the quiet lake, the pull on your arms as you propel yourself forward?

Took away one star only because the “glimpses” are too short and the middle short story confused me. It is amazing that I can give a book of short stories many stars!