Cliff of the Ruin
At the start of McKernan’s complex, dream-infused novel in 1879, Civil War hero and New York lawyer William Teague’s life is complicated by his feelings for Mae Kendrick, a talented artist. Defiantly intent on not being overly impressed by Teague and deeply conflicted over the case she’s brought to his attention – not only is her husband missing, but she has only the vaguest, most elusive memories of him at all. Teague is intrigued, and the case steadily complicates, moving the book’s action from rural New Jersey all the way to some of the most ancient and lore-laden sites of Ireland, the so-called“thin places” where the barrier between the normal and the supernatural worlds is at its thinnest.
A good deal of Cliff of the Ruin is unconventional by historical novel standards, but McKernan’s sheer zest of storytelling carries the narrative over its occasional weak spots (an anachronism here or there, a light smattering of typos, etc.). The quasi-mystical side of 19th-century Ireland is carefully researched and steers well clear of tired stereotypes about the Emerald Isle. The author provides an intriguing list of references for further reading. Recommended.