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Irish playwright Fitzgerald's prose reads like the saw-sound of a Gaelic folksong, with most of the macabre moral fable told in the particular patois of Jack Plum, a boy with a monstrous appearance but greater depths of humanity and understanding than most "normal" people. Labeled a freak or an imbecile, Jack lives alone with his abusive mother. His only refuge is the cellar shelter conceived of by his long-absent father as a hidden place to raise pigs. "Without the pigs I would be forsaken of love and perhaps I could turn into anger shapes like Mam does and want to put out blame. I know these types of stirrings-the want to make hurt." Only when he befriends the awkward, young Holly Lock does human friendship enrich his life. But the two share dark secrets, and the deeper and more genuine their friendship becomes, the greater the threat to Jack's "Palace for pigs." This beautifully crafted story retells the classic lesson of Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, with much of the innocence and the horror intact. While Fitzgerald brings the book to a somewhat hurried end that plays with the conventions of classical Greek tragedy, this debut novel is still satisfying and heartbreaking. (Sept.) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.

In her impressive U.S. debut, Irish playwright and poet Fitzgerald introduces Jack Plum, a deformed giant whose compassion and wisdom transcend the indignities he endures. Feared by his neighbors and abused by his mother, Jack takes an innocent interest in Holly Lock, a lonely outsider among the village teenagers who taunt him. Their relationship becomes a haven in which two misfits with bruised spirits discover and celebrate the curative powers of friendship-though they also risk the hostilities of those who misunderstand them. Both characters convincingly narrate the story in alternating chapters, but it is Jack's musical voice that invites reading aloud: his gentle, wistful cadences sound like a new kind of sean-nos singing (unaccompanied traditional singing in Irish). Although the novel concludes swiftly and sadly, Jack assures Holly-and us-that hope can flourish in the midst of heartbreak. Reminiscent of John Gardner's Grendel, this is highly recommended.-John G. Matthews, CTS/Cataloging, Washington State Univ. Libs., Pullman Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.

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