Book review: Mr. Lynch’s Holiday by Catherine O’Flynn

Despite a steadfast and refreshing creation called Dermot, O'Flynn's incisive story is weakened by one ill-defined protagonist.

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<strong>Rating: </strong>3/5


By Catherine O’Flynn. Henry Holt and Co., $26.

Loss and stymied promise saturate the landscapes of Catherine O’Flynn’s tender, perceptive fiction. Much of her impressive award-winning debut novel, What Was Lost, unfolded within the stifling confines of a declining ’80s megamall, and in her latest, the less sure Mr. Lynch’s Holiday, a father and son with little in common try to bond amid the dusty wasteland of a perpetually unfinished Spanish housing development.

Dermot, a retired, recently widowed bus driver who left Ireland for England as a young man, is a refreshing creation. He travels to the remote region of Spain where his college-educated son, Eamonn, bought a place with his girlfriend. But the developers have since absconded, and now, with his partner also gone, Eamonn is as isolated and wrecked as his surroundings.

Alternating between the two central characters’ viewpoints, and between the past and present, O’Flynn explores the intersection of place and identity in unexpectedly touching and funny ways. Eamonn is too thinly drawn a figure to support even half this introspective novel, so it’s quiet, steadfast Dermot who becomes the book’s driving force. Like O’Flynn’s best creations, the more ordinary he seems, the more extraordinary he’s eventually revealed to be.

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