Everything in This Country Must: A Novella and Two Stories
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In Everything in This Country Must, his fourth book, Colum McCann turns to the "troubles" in Northern Ireland and reveals the reverberations of political tragedy in the most intimate lives of men and women, parents and children. In the title story, a teenage girl must choose between allegiance to her Catholic father and gratitude to the British soldiers who have saved the family's horse. The young hero of Hunger Strike, a novella, tries to replicate the experience of his uncle, an IRA prisoner on hunger strike. And in Wood, a small boy does his part for the Protestant marches, concealing his involvement from his blind father.
begun to sag and rot, and once a beam fell. The air was sweet and hushed during those summers, and when autumn came, leaves blew in on top of them. They stayed in the hut, his mother and father, cuddling. His father’s face rose up in his mind, long wispy hair going bald, dark eyes, an abrupt nose. He thought he could reach out and touch him. She was laughing now as she talked and she seemed suddenly very young to him, but after a while he mentioned his uncle and they felt instantly guilty about
His mother looked up from where she was writing songs in her notebook and simply shook her head, no. * * * IN THE MORNING she was at the table, her legs drawn up on the chair. She had made pancakes for him. He noticed that her eyes were puffy and she looked older than ever before. She had not dyed her hair for two months and there were a couple of stray pieces of gray at her temple. She was staring down out the caravan window. It’ll be okay, Mammy, he said. She looked up at him and
idea you ever had in your life. She dragged him up from the chair by his hand, stuffed their swimsuits and a couple of towels in a white plastic bag. She pushed open the door of the caravan and instead of going toward the town she went east along the headland, past the abandoned Vauxhall, bounding over a series of boulders. She held his hand and laughed and when they got near the shoreline she hunkered down behind a giant rock and switched into her black swimsuit. Her skin was pale as candle wax
against it. Last in’s a rotten egg, she shouted as she stepped gingerly over the rocks into the water. The waves came up to her and broke at the waist and it seemed to him like the opening of hands. She waded out until the water was above her breasts and she dipped beneath the surface. She came up twenty yards away and waved at him. He hid behind a different rock and pulled on his trunks. She was already churning a line out on the water when he followed her into the widening vee of her wake.
out at the sea. The gray horizon bled into the gray sky so that he could not tell where the sky began and the sea finished. Only a single fishing boat broke the expanse. Moving away from the caravan, he kicked at a few stray stones. He wore black drainpipes hitched high on his hips, exposing white socks and black shoes. The boy had not polished his shoes since he bought them and they were scuffed now like dark ice. He followed the track that meandered muddily down the slope, steadying himself