Power-point dad, mum in a blue wig

The Cantankerous Molly Darling by Alvy Carragher, published by Chicken House

Alvy Carragher.

Alvy Carragher.

ALVY CARRAGHER is a compelling performer of her poetry; a writer who manages to combine sometimes emotionally explosive material with an almost whimsical light touch which draws the listener in.

Unlike some spoken word poets, Carragher takes care to pick the best word she can find and invests time trying to arrange her words into the best possible order. She is, in short, a real writer, rather than just another set of teeth spitting out words as fast as possible, in an exaggerated accent. Her words tend to stick with you, partly because she always has a real story to tell.

Given her ability to put together a beguiling narrative, which was obvious from the first time I ever heard her recite her poems, it is no surprise that she has now turned her talent to the longer form of the novel.

'When mid-life hits, men can do profoundly stupid things. With his glorious combination of emotional constipation and head-in-the-sand idiocy this dad rather takes the Kimberley Biscuit'

The Cantankerous Molly Darling is aimed at the growing young adult readership. As a 52-year-old man, I am well outside the desired age range. And yet, from the first sentence - “I wake to Mum singing Dolly Parton in the attic, never a good sign” – I found it a hugely entertaining read. The narrator’s mother breaking out into a spot of Dolly Parton appears to be connected to a crucial family anniversary: “it’s the anniversary of Dad’s departure – 365 days since he packed his bags and left behind a PowerPoint presentation entitled ‘Data Supporting my Departure from Farming’.”

I know from looking in the mirror that males of a certain age often find it hard to talk about where they are at emotionally and this can, when mid-life hits, lead them to do profoundly stupid things. With his glorious combination of emotional constipation and head-in-the-sand idiocy this dad rather takes the Kimberley Biscuit.

'It is likely most of the divorces of the future will be announced to the one being left behind via text or Skype'

This being rural Ireland, Molly wants her life to be “as simple as wellies and porridge”, but life never obliges with such simplicity. Molly’s mum pretends not to mind about the departure of her husband, but Molly finds the manner of his departure problematic: “if anyone ever bothers marrying me and then leaving me, I would like them to use proper stationery.” A reasonable aspiration, but it is likely most of the divorces of the future will be announced to the one being left behind via text or Skype. In this sense Molly’s dad is a man in tune with the zeitgeist in his use of technology to avoid being in the room when the tears and shouting begin.

Molly’s mom transcends her pain by taking up art and turning the attic into a studio in which she hangs around wearing “a blue wig she [has] stapled flowers to...and a pair of tights that depict the solar system.” She also evicts Molly’s beloved chickens because, in the absence of her dad, who is off re-finding himself, she says they can no longer afford them. A gloriously witty novel.

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