Patrick Scully, the wee bollox, is living life at large up above in Dublin and is trying to make his own way in the world. A typical story you might think a young man finding his feet, making new friends and trying to shrug off the mantle of a small town boy by moving to the big city. People left behind in small town Castlecock include young Joe, sister Val, the mentally unstable and infinitely suspicious Mammy and that pointy eared bollox Plunkett McKenna, all of whom don't really have that much to do with the story when alls said and done. Patrick was a promising youth - football star, spelling bee genius -but the demise of his Da, the local Guarda Patrick Scully Senior has sent him cantering off down the wrong path and there is no turning back now.
This book rang a lot of bells for me - from both Catholic and Prody bell towers in fact. A long time ago I moved to Ireland to work. I won't mention the town which was to be my home for a while but it bears some uncanny similarities to Castlecock, home of Patrick Scully, and it was characterised by a rocky outcrop topped by a historic monastery to which hoards of Americans flocked seeking a little bit of heritage. Located about half way between Dublin and Cork, both cities were regarded as hubs of the modern civilisation and also brightly illuminated devils traps, established not as centres of trade, commerce or learning but rather as places where the local youth were lead astray... straight on a path to the devil. If you wanted to make a break for freedom and get either above to Dublin or below to Cork then you'd have to get on the bus which ran erratically about once every three days. Apart from that if you didn't have a car or a tractor then you were fucked. And trapped.
The town had one high street which was populated by a small supermarket, a tourist information office (selling the kind of celtic themed nonsense that Patrick Scully steals in the book), a butcher, two turf accountants, an ill-founded Indian restaurant and about 28 pubs. My local was both the main pub in the town and also the undertakers. If you approached the building heading south, the sign on the gable said "Feeghan's Public House". The gable on the north bound approach said "Feeghan's the Undertakers". Sometimes people dropped down dead at the bar and were carried straight upstairs to be laid out. My neighbours were a local farmer who had a "special crop" and fancied himself as a Druid. Occasionally he'd turn up in his robes and get blind drunk in a corner. Other locals included a man who lived in a horse box and a man who'd fallen off the cliffs of Moher while inebriated and miraculously survived.
Based on my own personal experiences of the Emerald Isle I'd say that this book is the most truthful representation of small town Ireland I've ever read. It is also well written, vibrant, acute, accurate and will have you quietly grinning to yourself from the turn of the first page. I wonder how many Hail Marys Ardal O'Hanlon had to do after this was published?