Viking: The Book of Longings by Sue Monk Kidd

The Wild Laughter

Few nations felt the sting of the global recession that began in 2007 more than Ireland, when its roaring "Celtic Tiger" economy imploded. Caoilinn Hughes (Orchid & the Wasp) sets her second novel--a taut, acerbic family drama--against the backdrop of that economic cataclysm in her native land.

Like many of his countrymen, farmer Manus Black falls for the lure of a can't-miss investment in apartments in Spain and Bulgaria, only to lose all when the real estate market collapses. Overnight he's transformed from a comfortable, if hardworking, landowner to an impoverished debtor staring financial ruin in the face in a heavily mortgaged house "that had gone up in value by three hundred percent in a decade and dropped nearly that again in year." By the fall of 2014, his financial woes are compounded by the relentless advance of terminal cancer, an affliction that leads him to hint to his sons, Cormac and Doharty, the novel's narrator, that he wants their assistance in hastening his departure from the world.

The Black siblings are loyal to their imposing father, and dutifully go about trying to carry out his last wishes. But when their hastily researched and haphazardly executed plan goes awry, legal consequences ensue, compounding the tragedy of Manus's death and heightening the tensions that frequently bubble to the surface in the family. With frequent flashes of humor, "the thing austerity couldn't touch," Hughes skillfully captures the flickering tension between brothers separated by two years. The Wild Laughter is a compact but potent novel that explores its themes of love, loyalty and sibling rivalry with keen insight. --Harvey Freedenberg, freelance reviewer