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Book Review :: Old God’s Time by Sebastian Barry

Old God's Time by Sebastian Barry book cover image

Guest Post by Kevin Brown

Sebastian Barry’s latest novel, Old God’s Time, explores the ripple effects of trauma that stems from the violence and abuse Irish priests inflicted on children. Barry doesn’t portray the traumatic events directly, but readers should know there are a number of references to such events, as well as others related to harm to children. The person suffering the most—or at least the one who has endured through the suffering—is Tom Kettle, a retired police officer. He is enjoying his retirement until his former supervisor sends two officers to talk to him about a case related to a priest whom Kettle knows has abused many children, a case Kettle worked on earlier in his career, only to see it covered up by church and police authorities. Barry uses a third-person close narration, as much of the novel takes place in Kettle’s thoughts, which are more important than his and other characters’ actions. Kettle has to relive his past to come to grips with who he is now and what he and others have done. Though the book is dark and heavy, the language is lovely, filled with music and imagery that helps carry the reader through the awful realities Barry portrays, almost—but only almost—letting the reader forget about the suffering Kettle and so many others have endured.

Old God’s Time by Sebastian Barry. Viking, March 2003.

Reviewer bio: Kevin Brown has published three books of poetry: Liturgical Calendar: Poems (Wipf and Stock); A Lexicon of Lost Words (winner of the Violet Reed Haas Prize for Poetry, Snake Nation Press); and Exit Lines (Plain View Press). He also has a memoir, Another Way: Finding Faith, Then Finding It Again, and a book of scholarship, They Love to Tell the Stories: Five Contemporary Novelists Take on the Gospels. Twitter @kevinbrownwrite or kevinbrownwrites.weebly.com/.

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