A Greyhound of a Girl by Roddy Doyle
Four generations of a Dublin family come together in this ghost story. Mary is a modern Dublin pre-teen who finds herself moving away from her childhood rituals but also wanting to cling to them too. One day on her way home from school, she meets Tansey, a woman who wants her to give a message to her grandmother. Mary forgets, distracted by visiting her grandmother in the hospital with her mother. So it isn’t until later that she mentions the woman to her mother, who pales at being told the name, Tansey, because that was her own grandmother’s name. Soon Mary is having her mother meet Tansey and her relationship is revealed as is her status as a ghost. The three of them conspire to get Tansey and her daughter together again, even though Tansey can’t survive the harsh lighting of the hospital. The result is a road trip filled with hellos, memories, family stories, and goodbyes. Richly layered, this slim volume holds a grand tale.
Doyle plays with the format of a ghost story here, at first starting with a little shiver and danger and then turning the story into that of a family that has dealt with an early death for generations. It is a story of maternal love and the connections of women in a maternal line. It is also the story of loss, death and above all, life. Doyle creates fascinating characters, particularly in the two older women, Tansey and Emer. Their stories have a pastoral beauty, a vivid warmth, and yet are damaged by death. It is poignant, lovely and tragic.
The story is character driven and told in a slow, transformational way. It takes its time, filled with small moments of lives, hands wrapped around tea cups, children on laps, slow steps up stairs for the last time. Yet it is not a slow story, it is engaging, rich and builds a mood that is inescapable and memorable.
I loved this little book and the world that it created that seemed just for me. Doyle’s writing is confident and beautiful, meticulously crafted. This is a ghost story but so much more as well. Appropriate for ages 11-13.
Reviewed from ARC received from Amulet Books.