Book Review: 'The Stolen Child' by Lisa Carey

Because I once lived on the western coast of Ireland, and because author Lisa Carey moved to the island of Inishbofin, off Ireland's west coast to research her first book, I've been following her career for many years. I've loved each of her four Irish-themed novels, and eagerly awaited the February 7th release of her latest, "The Stolen Child."

It is a story much like Ireland herself: deceptive in its riddled nuances, more than the sum of its parts. The soul of the story creeps up on you. It takes patience and willingness to allow the magic to take hold, and when it does, it is not by possession. "The Stolen Child" spins the kind of magic that lulls at the core of your being; it affects your consciousness, waits for you to piece it together until you understand. There is little overt in this languid novel, which, again, is much like Ireland. It is a desperate story through and through, yet in the hands of author Lisa Carey, it resonates with mythical beauty, gives you a sense of timelessness, and holds you fast by its earthy, brass tacks.

In pitch-perfect language, Carey wields dialogue specific to the west coast of Ireland’s desolate environs. It is an understated language, upside down to outsiders, but once your ear attunes, you are affronted by the superfluousness of other tongues. All primary characters in "The Stolen Child" are women. They live cut-off from the mainland of Ireland’s west coast, 12 miles out, upon rocky, wind-swept, St. Brigid’s Island, during the one-year time frame of May 1959 to May 1960. It is a timeframe fraught with the looming inevitability of the islanders’ evacuation from their homeland, with its generational customs and ties, to the stark reality of life on the mainland, with its glaring and soulless “mod-cons.”

Most of the characters are conflicted about leaving the island, save for the sinister Emer, who has her own selfish agenda, centered upon her only child Niall. Her sister, Rose, is the sunny, earth-mother, unflappable sort, who only sees the buried good in Emer, whereas everyone one else on the island shuns her, for her malefic, dark ways, which they intuit as dark art. Emer has one foot on the island and the other in the recesses of the fairies’ manipulative underworld. It is the American “blow-in,” Brigid, the woman with a complicated past, who has her own ties to the island from her banished mother, that cracks the carapace of Emer’s guarded and angry countenance. Together, the pair explore an illicit relationship, but when it snaps back, Emer retaliates with a force that effects the entire island and twists her worst fears into fate.

"The Stolen Child" is magnificently crafted, for it is a sweeping story set on a cloistered island, which has nothing to recommend it save for its quays, its view, and its eponymous holy-well. This is a novel rife with character study that is quintessentially Irish, yet applicable far afield. In themes of motherhood, hope, desperation, and hopelessness, the characters take what little they have and wrestle it into making do. It is the power of steel intention that drives this story, and the reader receives it from all conceivable angles. I recommend "The Stolen Child" to all who love Ireland, to all who love an exceptional, creative story, and to all who love language used at its finest. All praise to the author, Lisa Carey. I eagerly await the next book.

Views: 235

Tags: Book Reviews, Fiction, Literature


Heritage Partner
Comment by That's Just How It Was on March 2, 2017 at 6:43am

Sounds much like your own well crafted work Clare....  you too are a very gifted writer .. I must watch out for it ...

Comment by Kathleen Donohoe on March 2, 2017 at 8:03am

I read her first book, The Mermaids Singing years ago. I will definitely look for this one.

Comment by Claire Fullerton on March 2, 2017 at 9:07am

I loved The Mermaid's Singing, Kathleen Donohue.  It's one of my favorite books of all times!

Comment by Claire Fullerton on March 2, 2017 at 9:10am

Thank you, Mary Thorpe. I sincerely appreciate your nice comment. If you read The Stolen Child,  I'd love to hear your thoughts! It's always fascinating to me to read other author's books set in Ireland. I'm sure you feel the same!

Comment by Kathleen Donohoe on March 2, 2017 at 9:16am

I met Lisa, I think in 2000, at a Writer's Conference on Achill Island. She was wonderful, very nice. I also loved her book Every Visible Thing about a girl dealing with her older brother's disappearance. If you haven't read it, I definitely recommend it.


Heritage Partner
Comment by That's Just How It Was on March 2, 2017 at 9:17am

Sounds like I am in for a real treat with all of these books 

Comment by Claire Fullerton on March 2, 2017 at 9:27am

I've read all of Lisa Carey's books, Kathleen, and I'm envious to read that you met her in person! I'm thrilled that you told me. It does occur to me that she is an acquired taste, and I mean this as singing praise. She handles esoteric subjects laden with a sense of mysticism of the Irish variety. For those of us familiar with Irish lore, it is an unearthing fraught with connections that explain the every day. And as a writer, she is a risk taker. This is incredibly apparent in The Stolen Child, for she goes into areas that may be uncomfortable to some readers, and yet she makes them an intrinsic part of the story. I think The Mermaid's Singing is still my favorite of hers. For her to have taken one story and present it from the vantage point of three women's narrative was brilliant!

Comment by Claire Fullerton on March 2, 2017 at 9:29am

Mary, I believe Kathleen Donohue and I would love for you to read The Mermaid's Singing. It has been out fifteen years or so, and absolutely floored me. So now you have two books to read! And I have one that will be published in 2018 ( a long wait for me, but so it goes!)


Heritage Partner
Comment by That's Just How It Was on March 2, 2017 at 10:04am

Thank you Clare 

Comment by Richard R. Mc Gibbon Jr. on March 5, 2017 at 12:21pm

Jakkers, now I have to put me guitar down and go look for the book, thanks for the information Claire. I am happy that it wasn't a recipe that always has me watching me weight as I have been told that one can gain weight by simply reading a yummy recipe.   ;-)   Slainte

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