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But Come Ye Back [Kindle Edition]

Beth Lordan
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)

Print List Price: $13.95
Kindle Price: $10.29
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Book Description

For thirty-some years, Lyle has made a life for his family working as an accountant. But when he retires, his Irish-born wife, Mary, wants to leave America and go home -- where the ocean is near and the butter has flavor.

Somewhat grudgingly, Lyle agrees, but during their years in Galway, they discover that the surprises of life are not over. Going home is more complicated than butter and the bay, and thirty content years does not mean that a couple is immune to romantic intrigue. In this new life, while Mary and Lyle are rediscovering each other and building a richer life together, an unexpected event forces Lyle to decide where his home truly is.

Told in "quiet stories with emotions like old stepping-stones that have sunk beneath the surface" (Christian Science Monitor), Beth Lordan's evocative and heartfelt novel explores the complex emotional terrain of mature marital relationships.



Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In this gentle, understated novel in stories, Lordan (And Both Shall Row; August Heat) follows an American couple who retire to Galway after a workaday existence in Ohio. Irish-born Mary fulfills the immigrant's dream of returning to Ireland after raising two boys, and her accommodating Irish but American-born husband, Lyle, gruffly tolerates the late-life move. While Mary blooms in her old home, Lyle, a retired accountant, approaches the transition as just another hurdle. He openly dislikes Ireland and Irish people, and resists the local vernacular: a "prom" will forever refer to a high school dance and not a bayside walkway. Slowly, however, he adjusts and even revels in his foreigner status. The couple must do more than simply adjust to a strange culture and climate; Mary and Lyle must also rework their relationship and each is tempted by a new love interest. Lyle is drawn to an attractive American tourist, and Mary spends time with a lonely Irish widower. Then Mary unexpectedly falls ill, and Lyle must decide on which side of the Atlantic his heart belongs. Lordan's muted prose and fluting Irishisms ("Right, so," "Grand") are pleasant if rather self-conscious, and her characters are human, breathing people, forthrightly crafted. The novel-in-stories structure produces some inconsistencies and redundancies, but this is a quietly engaging effort.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

It's a brave writer who uses a phrase from the great sentimental ballad "Danny Boy" as a title. Lordan (And Both Shall Row, 1998) assiduously avoids the bathos implied in that title, opting instead for a meticulously drawn portrait of Mary Curtin and Lyle Sullivan's long marriage--its "pettiness and comfortable meanesses and easy generosities." Through flashbacks and shifting narrative perspectives, we see a young, desperately lonely Lyle, after three dates and one brief kiss, fly off to Ireland to ask for Mary's hand in marriage. Some 30 years and two sons later, having retired in Ireland, the couple has lapsed into a comfortable routine, trying to avoid well-worn arguments as Lyle fends off Mary's nonstop chatter and Mary chafes under Lyle's silences. Lyle becomes enamored of an elegant young tourist, while Mary finds comfort in the banter of a lonely Irishman. But a health crisis provides Lyle with a sudden, keening appreciation for Mary's ability "to keep going, to show how that was done without you really noticing." A delicate, understated, yet deeply affecting series of stories. Joanne Wilkinson
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

Product Details

  • File Size: 183 KB
  • Print Length: 288 pages
  • Publisher: HarperCollins e-books (October 13, 2009)
  • Sold by: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B000OI0F0I
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,091,037 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Remarkable Collection of Stories January 30, 2004
Format:Hardcover
Irish-born Mary Curtin and American Lyle Sullivan met on Lyle's home soil when Mary was working as an au pair, and they spent most of their marital decades in Ohio. Surprising both themselves and their two grown sons, when retirement looms, the couple decides to move to Galway. Mary, long homesick for the small dailiness of Irish life, finds the move as invigorating as the sea air in her new hometown, while Lyle adjusts more slowly and clumsily.
The real clumsiness, however, is between them. Lyle, it seems, has been a too-reserved and angry husband, given to odd mannerisms that suggest obsessive-compulsive disorder. Mary, meanwhile, fell into the rut of so many 1960s American housewives of not having a life of her own. When she's back on familiar ground, she begins to wonder if the sacrifices she made for Lyle were worth it. Both husband and wife find themselves drawn to other people, and if those encounters do not result in classic affairs, the consequences for the marriage are no less classic: in the Sullivans' case, extramarital attraction makes their hearts grow fonder --- for each other.
The stories that form this novel are remarkable for many reasons, but I was chiefly struck by their stylistic differences. Lordan is known for her mastery of the short story, and here she riffs on that form. "Digging," for example, is all about Mary and Lyle's family backgrounds, but is given the form of a folk tale. "Cemetery Sunday," the first story, uses a familiar trope of short fiction --- take a cultural oddity/tradition and make it a metaphor --- yet here it's remarkably fresh, as if Lordan had invented the steps herself.
However, just as they begin to dance to the same rhythm, Mary and Lyle are thrown by her falling ill.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Perfectly wonderful read! April 22, 2006
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I was brought to this book by a rave review by Ron Charles in The Christian Science Monitor. On the surface, I was a little skeptical about even starting it. The author describes her book as a " novel in stories." And that it is. The general plot outline is about a retired American couple who return to the wife's native Ireland to finish their lives together. This did not seem to bode very well and I was just little reluctant to start the book. But once I got into the first and second of these stories, I could not stop. What Beth Lordan has done is to people her novel with characters so believable and so compelling that I begn to believe that I was now living next door to them. The fourth story, entitled "Digging" is worth the price of the book in and of itself. A glorious and moving story of real people which left me thinking about Kent Haruf's "Plainsong". Highly recommended.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars a luminous book October 6, 2009
By Barbara
Format:Paperback
But Come Ye Back is a quietly compelling book that drew me in from the start. Its structure of a novel made up of a series of stories is really effective. Each can be read in isolation as a little gem, or taken together, they tell of the life and marriage of Lyle and Mary Sullivan. I had read one of the stories in a compilation of best short stories and noted the author, and sought out this book- and I'm very glad I did. I felt transported into the lives of Mary and Lyle and their lives in Ireland and the US. These characters felt more real to me than most novels I have read (and I read fiction constantly.) I would highly recommend this book, and would just add that you may want to set aside more time than you expect - you may not be able to stop reading once you start. I can't wait to read more of Beth Lordan's work.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Very well written January 11, 2007
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
The mark of a good book for me is when I begin to have feelings for the characters, and I hate to see the book come to an end.

This is true for But Come Ye Back, and it touched some nerves with me.

My own mother was born in Ireland, came to the U.S., worked as a nanny and met my Irish, but American born father, who was another Lyle. That said, I found some humor and sadness in reading this book. It is a wonderfully written love story, without the actual word "love" being spoken. It is heartwarming, and I am sure many people will relate to the characters.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Well-written August 26, 2006
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Extraordinarily well-written: Lordan is an excellent craftsman. Nowhere in the whole novel does the style lapse. It is not really a "novel in short stories"--it's really a novel. Few of the chapters would really stand alone.

She has a great sense of psychological depth--this is almost like a Virginia Woolf novel, if VW were an Irish-American. Not much in the way of action: no car chases, no conflagrations. But it is a sympathetic and REALISTIC portrait of marriage.
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