Hello all! Today’s book review is called The Glorious Heresies by Irish author Lisa McInerney. Did you ever start a book with apprehension based on the description, and wonder if you’ll really like it? Or even be able to stomach it? That’s how I felt when starting this book—based on the description, I thought it would be too dark, too icky, too complicated for me. But what I ended up with was a book with unbelievably interesting and complicated characters, surprising plot twists, and themes of redemption, the nature of religion, and the choices we make that alter the courses of our lives.
The Glorious Heresies is populated by a cast of characters that would feel cliched if written by another author, but they seriously pop off the page in this novel. There’s Maureen, the fifty-something mother of a gangster who accidentally kills a man, and who is filled with zany ideas about atoning for sins and about what religion means to those who practice it with judgment and hypocrisy.
There’s Jimmy Phelan, her gangster son, who controls the Irish city of Cork through crime and intimidation. There’s the adolescent Ryan, a talented and sensitive teenage drug dealer who is terrified of turning into his abusive, alcoholic father. There’s also the prostitute-turned-Christian Georgie, the most intuitive and innocent soul in the novel, despite her shady past.
I utterly loved the voice of this novel; the narrator is full of wry humor, sarcasm, and the most breathtaking turns of phrase. Every sentence feels like truth, sometimes uncomfortable:
“The Church creates its sinners so it has something to save.”
“Parents sat gloomy and still, like rows of turnips in a grocer’s box. Their little criminals sat with them, tapping LOLs on their phones, or milled in the yard outside stinking of Lynx and taut nonchalance. Solicitors strode in and out in a twist of slacks and briefcases.”
I also loved getting to know the characters’ growth and story arcs throughout the novel, and was overjoyed when I found out there’s going to be a sequel in the spring! I read this book on a whim, and it ended up being an eye-opening look at post-recession Ireland and the effect of crime, poverty, and religion on the people of the cities. The setting is vivid, and made me learn a lot about contemporary Irish culture and the way of life, at least for these haunted, flawed characters!