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Thursday, March 7, 2013

A Greyhound of a Girl, written by Roddy Doyle. Amulet Books, Abrams. Canadian Manda Group, 2012. $18.95 ages 10 and up

"Tansey went across to the big chair with Emer still in her arms. The chair had been Jim's father's, but Tansey had never known the man. He'd been dead for a year before she slid on the ice and met Jim. But all the same, she thought she knew him, because a part of him - his tobacco, and the smells he'd brought in from the four corners of the farm - still seemed to be in the chair."

Here are four generations of women in one family. Tansey is a ghost from the past who died too young and has always kept tabs on her daughter Emer, who was left motherless while a very young girl. Emer is mother to Scarlett and Grandmother to Mary; she is in hospital dying and fearful of death. Each of the women have a powerful bond, and I love the conversations between Mary and Scarlett:

"Great idea!" said her mother.
"Stop talking like that," said Mary.
"Like what?!"
"Oh, no!" said her mother, whose name was Scarlett.
"I don't really talk like that! Do I?!"
"Yes, you do."
"What?! Always?!"

Roddy Doyle sets his story in Ireland, and uses alternating chapters to tell each character's story, and then numbered chapters to provide the shared story being told. Although they have lived at different times in history, the women exhibit similarities that are uncanny. Once all four have found each other, they embark on a road trip together to the family home. The trip has its disappointments, but also its great pleasures for the women (well, three women and one young girl):

"It was quiet. Scarlett just drove. Mary looked out the window. She didn't ask for music or food. Her granny was asleep and Mary knew it was special, this trip. It was something that hadn't been planned. It was actually impossible. Four generations of women - "I'm a woman," Mary said to herself  -heading off on a journey in a car. One of them dead, one of them dying, one of them driving, one of them just starting out. I'm a woman. She looked out the window..."

The conversations and flashbacks are lovely. They show the way that each generation relates to the other, adding humor, poignancy and a healthy dose of life in the every day. Roddy Doyle is incredibly adept at creating dialogue between them, and giving us characters to love and admire.

This is a book about love and the connections that make us family. Charming, sad, funny and so worth reading.

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