Website of Orla McAlinden
“The Visit” won The 2016 Irish Short Story of The Year Award
I first encountered the work of Orla McAlinden in September of last year when I read her novel The Flight of the Wren. Everyone who has read this book loved it, for sure I did. Here were my opening thoughts
"No other, of the numerous works of fiction and nonfiction I
have read on the Irish Famine Years (1845 to 1849) comes as close to capturing the lived experience of the Irish people than Orla McAliden’s darkly beautiful debut novel, The Flight of the Wren."
The Flight of the Wren is just an amazing book. It would make a great movie.
Of course I wanted to read more of McAlinden's work. I was happy to discover she previously published a collection of short stories. The stories in The Accidental Wife are set in Northern Ireland. They deal with seven decades in the McCann family.
“The Visit” takes us into the violence once prevalent in Northern Ireland, the war of terror of the IRA. As the story opens, Mr. O’Donovan, a fifty year old widower with a young son is working on his farm. He is approached by three men who have on hoods and are armed. He knows they are serious trouble but is not a first sure who they are:
“Strangers on your land, in your yard. How strange are they? Let’s find out. “Dia daoibh,” you say, strong and loud. “May God and Mary be with you,” replies the first stranger; the words in the Irish language roll off his lips without thought, as automatic as the responses at Mass on Sunday. If you had intoned “The Lord be with you,” he would have chanted back “And also with you.” The man behind you to your left is more fluent still; “God’s blessing upon the work” is his reply. The third man is silent. Before, you knew nothing about your visitors. Now you know something. Catholic, Republican, Catholic-educated, Belfast accents. They might be graduates of the University of Long Kesh, where all the Republican prisoners only speak Irish, thwarting their Unionist prison guards, clinging desperately to this hint of dignity. IRA, INLA, IPLO, someone like that. The bulges in the men’s coats are more obvious now; they have shifted their stance to bring the outline of the weapons into sharp relief against their cheap, nylon bomber jackets, but they have not produced them. Yet.”
His doberman is locked up. He is worried his son will come home while the men are there. He knows if they touch his son he will try to kill them, either he will end up mudered or in prison as a murder, his son an orphan.
I do not wish to give away more of the exciting plot, things do turn violent and we discover what the three men want. McAlinden lets us see hows decades of clanishness and class strife have produced a society of silence. I loved the closing potrayal of the father-son relationship.
I look forward to following the work of Orla McAlinden for many years.
I strongly endorse The Flight of the Wren
Award-winning Irish writer, inspired by Ireland's complex and difficult history.
The Flight of the Wren, Published 2018 winner of the CD Lewis award and the Greenbean Novel Fair.
The Accidental Wife, received the Eludia Award, 2014.
“The Visit" won the 2016 Irish Short Story Award.