The Stolen Child
This mesmerizing novel, set on an isolated, rocky island off the west coast of Ireland in 1959, fairly pulses with passion and magic. Carey blends the real and the mythic so seamlessly and with such insight that “magic realism” seems a poor name for the vibrant genre in which she’s working. The women of her story—fierce Emer, loving Rose, and fey Brigid—are drawn so finely and precisely that they seem figures from a fairy tale brought to messy, utterly believable life, their joys and sorrows immediate and heartrending.
The plot focuses on the intense relationship between Brigid, a newcomer to the island whose healing hands are small compensation for a life of trauma, loss, and childlessness; and Emer, who up until Brigid’s arrival has loved only her otherworldly son, Niall. Both women are caught in a maelstrom of desire, fear, and fate, in a place where the real-life challenges of daily life without modern conveniences are balanced by the enchanting Celtic and Christian mysteries surrounding the legends of the island’s patron, St. Brigid, reenacted generation after generation by the tenacious island women and their children.
This highly recommended novel invites rereading, just to admire how skillfully Carey has woven into her narrative allusions to Celtic myth and legend, the poetry of Yeats and Heaney, and the heartbreaking historical realities of an ancient community making its final exodus into the modern era.