Touching and darkly comedic.
Heartbreaking and hilarious.
I simply loved this book. In a style akin to John Irving, it is one man’s odyssey through society’s changing attitude toward homosexuality. A story that spans decades and countries — starting in Ireland in 1945, to Amsterdam and New York City in the 1980s, and eventually back present-day Ireland. This is story of Cyril Avery, beautifully written with both humor and heart.
As the narrator, the story starts with Cyril in the womb, waiting to be born to an unwed Irish mother, shamed and exiled by her village church and family. Cyril is adopted by an aloof and eccentric couple in Dublin that treat him more like a tenant than a family member, reminding him daily that “he is not a real Avery”. Growing up gay in a society that hates his sexuality, he is forced to suppress his natural desires, living a life built on lies and deceit.
“Even at that tender age I knew that there was something about me that was different and that it would be impossible ever to put right.”
This is Cyril’s story. A story that illustrates how social contempt and self-loathing can wreak havoc and wreck lives. It is the story of one very caring and gentle man that finally finds the freedom and the courage to reconcile with his difficult past, and shed the guilt and shame that he bore throughout his life.
What did I love about this book?
- The fabulous dialogue and banter between characters that often had me giggling uncontrollably.
- The heartfelt emotion and pain that bursts from the pages, as Cyril wrestles with his sexual identity.
- The hysterical characters that seem larger than life — from his eccentric adopted parents to his childhood friend that he falls madly in love with and pines over secretly for years.
- The poignant look at some of our darker times in recent history — with the repression of the Irish Catholic church and the AIDs epidemic in the 1980s.
- Did I mention that I loved the witty dialogue and cutting humor?
A bit melodramatic and predictable at times (he runs into his birth mother unknowingly, more times than I can count), it is still a winner in my book. At 600 pages, it may seem daunting — but it is a story that kept me up reading into the wee hours of the night, and somewhat remorse to see come to and end. Enjoy!
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