A spare, piercing testimony to the bewilderment and resiliency of youth, Hyland's second novel (following How the Light Gets In) filters the adult world through the distressed lens of adolescence, which makes every change look like a test of survival. John Egan is an extremely tall 11-year-old boy living in the small town of Gorey, Ireland, with the moody triumvirate of his mother, father and grandmother. As he faces the trials of home and school life, John feels he has no place in the world, and his frustration fuels odd obsessions: with the Guinness Book of World Records, with physical human contact and with his "gift" for detecting lies. His parents, already sorting through their own uneasy relationship, puzzle over their only son with doctors and teachers, pushing John to a moment of crisis, which may prove his undoing. John's voice is singular and powerful throughout: "I wait anxiously for my turn, thinking that he'll soon discover me and know that I'm different. I've already decided that I'll tell him about my gift." By the subtle, satisfying d?nouement, one is rooting for John's place in the Guinness book and saving a space for him among the year's memorable characters. (Mar.) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Reminiscent of Mark Haddon's The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, this work is a worthy successor to Hyland's critically acclaimed first novel, How the Light Gets In. Set in 1972, the novel relates the moving and troubling tale of John Egan's 11th year. Egan lives in Gorey, in southeast Ireland, with his mother, father, and grandmother. They coexist in a tenuous domestic peace threatened by resentment between the adults and Egan's confusion about others' shifting expectations of him. Hyland credibly evokes Egan's agony in a plaintive, perplexed, resolute, and, at times, smug voice. Convinced that he possesses the "gift of lie detection," Egan tests people to prove their truthfulness. Yet he himself stretches the truth in order to defend himself and exert some control over swiftly deteriorating personal circumstances. Egan's truth experiments ultimately culminate in cruelty and violence. Whether his family's love exonerates Egan remains ambiguous, but he does revise his rigid notions of truth to include the necessity of omission and the grace of leaving some things unsaid. Recommended for public and academic libraries. John G. Matthews, Washington State Univ. Libs., Pullman Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.