It’s the summer of 1981. Newly widowed Bessie Halstone is fleeing Belfast with her young son, Herkie. She’s wrongly suspected of pocketing £10,000, the loot from a heist carried out by Packie, her late (and unmourned) husband. Bessie has plans. She longs to make a fresh start. But first she must reach the safety of her sister’s home, in County Sligo, to borrow money for the trip. She doesn’t make it. Car trouble forces her to sojourn in Tailorstown, a sleepy rural community. Her plans are put on hold as she decides to lay low for a while. She’ll need cash. She finds work as a housekeeper for the handsome but mysterious parish priest. In the meantime, Lorcan Strong, an artist and a native of Tailorstown, is summoned home. With reluctance, he returns to the place where he feels almost a stranger, a town he has long outgrown. A chance meeting with young Herkie Halstone leads Lorcan into the world of the disenchanted Bessie and into a grave danger that has pursued them both from Belfast. The Disenchanted Widow is an unforgettable peek into small-town life in Ireland’s recent past. It’s a glorious successor to McKenna’s first Tailorstown novel, The Misremembered Man.
I read this book immediately following The Misremembered Man, the first of the Tailorstown novels. I thought I may need to read it first considering this is billed as “The stunning sequel to The Misremembered Man”. You DO NOT need to read The Misremembered Man in order to understand this novel. It is set in the same town and has a couple of overlapping minor characters, but that’s it. With that being said, let’s continue with the review.
I’ll say the same thing about this one I said about the first one…it was a bit slow for my tastes, but I like the way it was written. McKenna writes the Irish dialect amazingly. You can hear it lyrically in your head while you read it.
The Disenchanted Widow was slow in spots, but overall it had much more action than it’s predecessor. Bessie (Halstone) Lawless is being chased by “The Dentist,” an IRA enforcer who believes she has the money her deceased husband stole from him. Bessie ends up hiding out in Tailorstown against her wishes when her car breaks down unexpectedly. Bessie has no idea where the money is which leads to an interesting twist in the end. Again, I had figured out the twist about a quarter of the way into the book. So the end was no big shocker, but at least you had the suspense of not knowing if the The Dentist was going to find Bessie and her bratty son, Herkie. There were also a couple of unexpected turns in the plot that made it more enjoyable.
I didn’t really connect with any of the characters. I did like Lorcan Strong, simply because he was a nice guy. McKenna writes a plethora of odd characters, but she tends to keep you in the dark about most of them in order to build suspense. Unfortunately, this tends to just make them flat. The characters she does develop makes you wonder why she developed them at all, namely Gusty Grant. I found most of her characters irritating.
I rated this book at 3 1/2 stars on a 5 star scale. I gave it a 1/2 star more than it’s predecessor simply because it had a more interesting plot. I wouldn’t say I enjoyed the book, but it wasn’t horrible. It kept my interest even though I wasn’t dying to get home from work to read it. If I could describe it one word, it would be “meh.”