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Everything in This Country Must: A Novella and Two Stories Paperback – March 7, 2001

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Everything in This Country Must: A Novella and Two Stories + Songdogs: A Novel + Fishing the Sloe-Black River: Stories
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 160 pages
  • Publisher: Picador; 1st edition (March 7, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312273185
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312273187
  • Product Dimensions: 8.1 x 5.4 x 0.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #525,939 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

The three teenagers at the heart of Colum McCann's Everything in This Country Must have been fostered alike by beauty and by fear. Since they're from Northern Ireland, alas, the latter gained ground a long time ago. For them, there will always be a better before--before sectarian division and violence rent their families, before illness and death. In the title story, a 15-year-old and her farmer father fight to save his favorite draft horse, which has caught itself in a sudden flood:
The trees bent down to the river in a whispering and they hung their long shadows over the water and the horse jerked quick and sudden and I felt there would be a dying, but I pulled the rope up to keep her neck above water, only just.
As Katie and her father work, quickly, hopelessly, she fills in the gaps: the shame she feels at being slow, how her mother and brother were killed. In her eyes, all nature is alive and witness to the mare's dying, "since everything in this country must"--the connections are everywhere. The connections between humans, however, are not. When six British soldiers, "all guns and helmets," smash through the hedgerow to help, her father would rather sacrifice his horse than be grateful to the enemy. And even after one man risks drowning to rescue the horse, despair at the past destroys the present.

Though there is no overt death in McCann's second story, "Wood," the unsaid and the unsayable cast a pall over another family. After his father has a stroke, Sam and his mother must work by night in the family mill, making poles for banners for a political march. Despite their attempts at silence, the two are discovered, and this time the natural world seems somehow complicit in Ireland's factional wrath: "I looked at the oak trees behind the mill. They were going mad in the wind. The trunks were big and solid and fat, but the branches were slapping each other around like people."

Katie and Sam still have the capacity for wonder that has been worried out of their parents. McCann's third child, however, does not. In "Hunger Strike," a mother and son have gone from north to south for safety, a move that fills the 13-year-old with resentment. One gesture of kindness too many and he'll explode. Much has been made of the fact that in this collection McCann has confronted the Troubles for the first time. Equal attention should be paid to his exquisite, elemental narration--you never know which word will come next, and you're always desperate to find out. --Kerry Fried --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

McCann, who distinguished himself among the impressive flood of recent Irish writers being well-published stateside with his remarkable book of stories, Fishing the Sloe-Black River, and the equally well-received Songdogs and This Side of Brightness, shows off all his talents here, although with mixed results. The two very short stories that begin the book (the title story and "Wood") are sketches, really, and though written with great spirit, are extremely slight. "Everything in the Country Must" involves an archetypal figure struggling to save a horse in a flood, and is a kind of Beckett vignette with muscle. McCann shows he has an eye for dramatic dynamics, but is so untethered in his language ("I stretched wide like love and put one foot on the rock... ") that the narrative becomes annoying in its indulgence. "Wood" fares no better. Again, it is a small event rendered with a kind of mythical grandeur: "Daddy" was "so tall he could grab onto the rim of the door in the mill and pull himself up ten times." But Daddy has a fall, and the mother and young children must drag their cut of lumber to the mill for payment. The muted heroism is so coyly underplayed as to be transparent, which hardly prepares readers for the novella that ends this slender tome. At first blush, "Hunger Strike" is another one of those tales too encumbered by the too-familiar big "Oirish" themes of history, hunger, violence, protest. But the story of 13-year-old Kevin and his mother, holed up in a caravan on the Galway coast in order to avoid the spectacle of Kevin's uncle's slow death "on the blanket" in, presumably, Long Kesh prison, is a piece of work bound for anthology heaven. With the kind of imaginative verve that marked his earlier stories, McCann takes the interior world of this teenager--sneaking smokes from his guitar-playing mother, listening to rock 'n' roll on the radio, thinking of girls and his dead father--and unpacks it with loving delicacy. Kevin in his wanderings in this place he finds "stupid" meets an old Lithuanian couple who live by the shore; they take the boy into their home, and the old man teaches Kevin how to handle a kayak. To while away the excruciating days of the uncle's hunger strike, Kevin and his mother play chess and make sport of constructing new pieces out of bread and cocoa and then putting them in the fridge--they delight in eating "the Queen." There are no pat answers here, as the Lithuanian man, long ago self-exiled from his homeland, makes gently clear. And McCann startles just enough with beauteous phrases (a stone wall "runs like a bad suture towards the sea") and lasting images (Kevin doing his homework on a stool next to his mother at the piano, as she plays for tips in a Galway pub) to keep readers amazed and near tears. "Hunger Strike" builds toward the inevitable mentoring of young Kevin by the older Lithuanian, and the teaching runs both ways. Hemingway's Old Man and the Sea, just as inevitably, will come to mind. (Mar.)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

More About the Author

Colum McCann is the internationally bestselling author of the novels Zoli, Dancer, This Side of Brightness, and Songdogs, as well as two critically acclaimed story collections. His fiction has been published in thirty languages. He has been a finalist for the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award and was the inaugural winner of the Ireland Fund of Monaco Literary Award in Memory of Princess Grace. He has been named one of Esquire's "Best and Brightest," and his short film Everything in This Country Must was nominated for an Oscar in 2005. A contributor to The New Yorker, The New York Times Magazine, The Atlantic Monthly, and The Paris Review, he teaches in the Hunter College MFA Creative Writing Program. He lives in New York City with his wife and their three children.

Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

26 of 27 people found the following review helpful By Michael Cowgill on March 14, 2000
Format: Hardcover
Colum McCann, one of the finest young writers in Ireland & Amreica continues to grace us with this corageous book. Not just corageous for the obvious subject, the Troubles in Northern Ireland, but its deeper one -- the connections between the life around us (political and otherwise) and the life inside us. At its center is not so much the Troubles but the depths and power of love -- love for country, for God, for family and for one's self. These loves are at odds with one another. The narrator of the title story loves her father and lost mother and brother, yet she feels drawn to the young English soldier who helps them save their horse, and very well may have caused the accident that killed her mother and brother. The mother in "Wood" must decide between her love for her invalid husband and her Protestant identity, and tries to balance them. And in "Hunger Strike" a boy's coming of age through his uncle's and country's political strife is guided and challenged by adults who wish to protect him and soothe his rage. This is not the "All You Need is Love" kind of love. This is deep, spritual, love -- the thing binds us and breaks us, and McCann is brave for tackling this within a political context and a world that often values surface issues instead of, to paraphrase Norman McClean, the river that runs through us.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Maria Pia Capozzoli on March 2, 2001
Format: Hardcover
Northern Ireland, with its troubled history and its extreme enviroment, is an easy subject for second-rate writers, and actually you can find a lot of would-be thrillers, unlikely to get a second edition.
For the same reason, Northern Ireland is a difficoult subject for good writers. That's why you can find many interesting non-fiction books, but really few good novels.
With "Everything in this country must" Colum McCann proves once again to be a great writer. While reading it, I was nearly overwhelmed by emotions. And I was amazed by both the simplicity and the effectivness of his writing.
It's a little book, just 150 pages. You could read it in two hours. But because it's a great book I would suggest you to read it very, very slowly, enjoying every word, every line, every emotion. And in so doing, may be you happen to realize that McCann is deceiving all of us: he writes poems disguised as short stories.
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Gary Silk on March 25, 2000
Format: Hardcover
This is one of the few books of its genre that I actually enjoyed. The characters and settings simply jump out of the pages at you and make you see so vidly everything that the author is attempting to convey.
I can't think of a single part of this book where I wasn't completely mesmerized by both the intelligent way the characters and plots weren't handling in an intelligent and poignant manner.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Chris R. Richards on August 25, 2001
Format: Paperback
McCann's work is filled with subtlety and original crisp images that are culled with attention to detail. The novella and two short stories here feature experiences of youth affected by political turmoil in Northern Ireland. Yet the stories are not heavyhanded about the politics; they explore the lives of three adolescents while integrating the colonial frustrations into the narrative. This ie easily one of my favorite reads from the past year. The stories read quickly, but they have a density to them and a richness in language and emotion. While the tone seems brooding, there is still something to celebrate about the well written characters and insights that McCann offers in this work
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