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Everything in This Country Must: A Novella…

Everything in This Country Must: A Novella and Two Stories

by Colum McCann

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1891088,294 (3.78)60



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The novella and two stories in this slim book are set in Ireland and peripherally deal with The Troubles. Each features a teenaged protagonist hose life is somehow affected by the lingering residue of the hatred between Catholics and Protestants. In "Wood," young Sam and his mother must hide from his blind father the contribution they are making to a political march. The title story depicts the confusion of a girl whose father would rather lose his draft horse than owe a debt of gratitude to the British soldiers who try to save it. And in "Hunger Strike," a coming-of-age story, a boy rages against the disruption caused by the family moving from north to south for 'safety.' Always in the background, always presuring the foreground are the ongoing religious and political divisions that plague the Irish. A very fast read, but--as usual--McCann's lyrical prose demands close attention. ( )
  Cariola | Jun 18, 2014 |
These two stories and novella astounded me. McCann manages to evoke clear cut characters and images with minimal descriptions in each of these works. All of them revolve around the Troubles, which I found especially interesting since I just read his latest novel, "Transatlantic", a short time ago. Lyrical, moving and beautifully written. ( )
1 vote nmele | Jan 31, 2014 |
"Everything In This Country Must" is quite simply too short.

The title story only lasts 23 minutes. I am listening to the audiobook performance. Yes, it feels like a performance, not the reading of a story! The narration by Clodagh Bowyer, in her young feminine Irish patois, was fantastic. The book’s narrator is a fifteen year old. Her perception of the event is that of a young Catholic Irish girl. She saw the body of the male swimmer. That is what she would see. She saw the agony and frustration of her father. She saw both, and there she stands wondering how one reconciles the two! Politics and religion and culture all mirrored in one short episode. I end up frustrated because I want more! I have been given a beautiful snapshot!

The second story lasts only 26 minutes, narrated by Paul Nugent. This story shows the other side, a Presbyterian family living in Northern Ireland. The point of contention is here within the family. Secrets. Still, very, very Irish! I am less sure what McCann is trying to tell us, but the small details create a picture that you feel rather than see. The short remarks, which can scarcely be called dialog, capture the mood perfectly. Another snap-shot, but less satisfying because I don’t know what is being said.

Awfully glad that the next track is two hours and forty minutes long. Something to bite into and hold a while…. This one is narrated by Sean Gormley. Beautiful. That is the best adjective to describe this. McCann knows how to capture a person, that person’s cultural identity, age, family, circumstances and what makes that person who he is. He knows how to capture the wonderful in the sorrowful. He knows how to make you draw parallels between the book’s characters and your own loved ones. The main character is a Catholic, 13 years old and Irish. The setting is, I would guess, in the early 1980s. The themes are sexual awakening, family relationships, friendship and of course the religious/political strife that so characterizes Northern Ireland. You don’t have to be interested in the political theme to love this book. Any mother who has had a 13 year old son will relate to this book. It is believable, it is sweet, and it is hard. This too is a snap shot, of a few weeks in a thirteen-year-old's life. Do you remember swimming with your young adolescent son, splashing water, the cold air, the quiet lake, the pull on your arms as you propel yourself forward?

Took away one star only because the “glimpses” are too short and the middle short story confused me. It is amazing that I can give a book of short stories many stars!

Completed Mar 11, 2013 ( )
1 vote chrissie3 | Apr 13, 2013 |
Audiobook............Listening to Colum McCann's prose is like listening to poetry, regardless of the subject matter. He is an excellent writer! This is the first time I have read his writing in the shorter format of novella and short stories, and I think he is masterful at it. All I will say, is settle back in a comfy chair with a beautiful view and listen. You will be carried away to the tough and demanding world of Ireland and its day-to-day realities. It's worth the time! ( )
  hemlokgang | Apr 13, 2012 |
After reading This side of brightness earlier this year, Everything in this country must is my second book by Colum McCann. McCann is often presented as an Irish writer, which by birth he is, but he moved to the US at the age of about 20. We would not call that an early age. He had started his journalistic career before that, while still in Ireland, but his career as a novelist / fiction writer developed in the United States, with is first work of fiction, Fishing the Sloe-Black River published there 8 years on. Despite references to Ireland, his work has a strong American feel to it.

The stories of Everything in this country must, a novella and two stories, are set in Ireland. The first, title story, Everything in this country must affirms my feeling that McCann is particularly strong at describing crises. The other two stories, however, lack that energy and momentum, and are relatively bland. In the third story Hunger strike the repetitive tables of weight loss are distracting, and mask the weakness of the writing to convey the development in the character.

Supposedly all set in Ireland, none of the stories feel authentically Irish. ( )
1 vote edwinbcn | Oct 23, 2011 |
Showing 1-5 of 10 (next | show all)
The two stories and novella that make up Colum McCann's very slim ''Everything in This Country Must'' seem to be a way of dealing with Ireland's sectarian conflict by coming at it sideways. That's not to say McCann has chosen the route of fable or metaphor. The battles between Protestant and Roman Catholic are alluded to in these three selections, but the characters seem to experience it all from a distance, or as part of a past that sits in the midst of their day-to-day experience like a lump of dry bread in the throat, impossible to digest or ignore.
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Horses buried for years

Under the foundations

Give their earthen floors

The ease of trampolines.

Paul Muldoon, Dancers at the Moy
For Isabella and John Michael
First words
A summer flood came and our draft horse got caught in the river.
"...I was shivering and wet and cold and scared because Stevie and the draft horse were going to die since everything in this country must."
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0312273185, Paperback)

The three teenagers at the heart of Colum McCann's Everything in This Country Must have been fostered alike by beauty and by fear. Since they're from Northern Ireland, alas, the latter gained ground a long time ago. For them, there will always be a better before--before sectarian division and violence rent their families, before illness and death. In the title story, a 15-year-old and her farmer father fight to save his favorite draft horse, which has caught itself in a sudden flood:
The trees bent down to the river in a whispering and they hung their long shadows over the water and the horse jerked quick and sudden and I felt there would be a dying, but I pulled the rope up to keep her neck above water, only just.
As Katie and her father work, quickly, hopelessly, she fills in the gaps: the shame she feels at being slow, how her mother and brother were killed. In her eyes, all nature is alive and witness to the mare's dying, "since everything in this country must"--the connections are everywhere. The connections between humans, however, are not. When six British soldiers, "all guns and helmets," smash through the hedgerow to help, her father would rather sacrifice his horse than be grateful to the enemy. And even after one man risks drowning to rescue the horse, despair at the past destroys the present.

Though there is no overt death in McCann's second story, "Wood," the unsaid and the unsayable cast a pall over another family. After his father has a stroke, Sam and his mother must work by night in the family mill, making poles for banners for a political march. Despite their attempts at silence, the two are discovered, and this time the natural world seems somehow complicit in Ireland's factional wrath: "I looked at the oak trees behind the mill. They were going mad in the wind. The trunks were big and solid and fat, but the branches were slapping each other around like people."

Katie and Sam still have the capacity for wonder that has been worried out of their parents. McCann's third child, however, does not. In "Hunger Strike," a mother and son have gone from north to south for safety, a move that fills the 13-year-old with resentment. One gesture of kindness too many and he'll explode. Much has been made of the fact that in this collection McCann has confronted the Troubles for the first time. Equal attention should be paid to his exquisite, elemental narration--you never know which word will come next, and you're always desperate to find out. --Kerry Fried

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:05:23 -0400)

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