by Pete Hamill
Hamill, a well-known journalist, is also a popular novelist; his 1997 novel Snow in August appeared on best-seller lists (as well as the Booklist Editors' Choice list for that year). His remarkably imaginative new novel is an exciting mix of realism and fantasy as he follows the exploits of Cormac O'Connor, born into Ulster peasantry in intolerant eighteenth-century Ireland. O'Connor is painted as a traditional mythical hero who is oversized in strength and character, and who actually carries a sword with great protective powers. In fact, the whole novel springs from Celtic mythology, for O'Connor's parents adhere neither to Protestant ways nor to Roman Catholic beliefs but to old Celtic religious practices. Both of them are killed--in separate circumstances--by the cruel Protestant earl of Warren, who, not caring at all, then seeks better fortune in New York City. O'Connor, vowing to avenge his mother's and father's brutal deaths, tracks the earl to the great American metropolis. Events come to pass wherein O'Connor is given the gift of eternal life, but for the blessing to work, he must never leave the island of Manhattan or he will die and never pass into the "Otherworld" of Celtic mythology. So, at this point O'Connor's story becomes the story of New York City, from the mid-1700s to the present, as he "absorbs its life, its menace, it cruelties, its toughness, its joys and sorrows and beauties." Hamill writes with great detail, which adds texture and spice to, rather than impeding, the narrative's swift movement. As always, he is perfectly enjoyable to read for his great felicity of style (obviously derived from his years as a journalist) as well as his originality of plot. This absolutely embracing novel is certain to hit the best-seller lists.
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