Greyhound of a Girl by Roddy Doyle
This lovely story of family, love, loss and transformation transports readers to a time and place where a ghost lurking about to assure her daughter’s safety does not seem amiss. Mary, her mother, her granny and her great-grandmother’s ghost are the main characters. Mary, a precocious 12-year old, daughter to Scarlett and granddaughter to Emer, meets a ghost outside her apartment. The ghost is Tansey, Mary’s great-grandmother, who died when Emer was only three or four. Tansey couldn’t leave her girl, even though she had a wonderful father and grandmother to raise her, so her ghostly form has been lurking around all these years. Now Tansey has returned to Dublin because her daughter, Emer, is dying of old age, and Tansey wants to ease her way into the afterlife.
Doyle’s use of language almost functions as another character in the book. “Four generations of women… heading off in a journey in a car. One of them dead, one of them dying, one of them driving, one of them just starting out.” Doyle paints and emotional and comic picture in this description of a middle of the night road trip, which involves springing Emer from the hospital to return to her childhood home. In this one sentence, Doyle conveys the central themes of the novel: family, love, loss and transition in a way both bittersweet and humorous. A poignant discussion of Emer’s younger brother and what became of him ends with these questions by the admittedly cheeky Mary, “… and you expected someone to, like, marry him? A man called James the Baby?” A Greyhound of a Girl is a pleasure from start to finish and appropriate for tweens, young adults and adults. I am buying it for my high school library as soon as it is released in the U.S. (May 1, 2012).