From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. Although gothic tropes pervade Byrne's strong debut novel, they're doused—or soused, rather—with vibrant Dublin brogue and streetwise wit. On the death of his mother, 26-year-old Denny Cullen comes home to a small, disgraceful fuckin kip in Dublin's sprawl, where dwells his quite alive and quite drunk lesbian sister, Paula. She claims there's a gender-bending ghost hiding under the bed, so their friend and methadone-addicted spiritual adviser, Pajo, conducts a kitchen-table séance that prompts Denny to find meaning and purpose in his own life. Overwhelmed by grief and alienated from his father and brothers, Denny struggles against the boozy tides of violent childhood memories, unemployment and low self-esteem. If his aimlessness threatens to scuttle a plot that depends upon the shenanigans of his friends and their enemies, then it's Denny's voice and sensibility that buoy the narrative. He and his mates turn phrases so wry, so inventive, so Irish, that one feels the burning intelligence and resilience that reside in even the mangiest stripe of the Celtic tiger. (Dec.)
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A kinder, gentler Irvine Welsh, first-novelist Byrne gives voice to a pack of Dublin lads, chief among them Denny Cullen. Having escaped the monotony of his unemployed, hard-drinking Dublin lifestyle for the fresh sights of Wales, Denny is unexpectedly called back home when his ma dies. He is incredibly sad to think that he will no longer hear the encouraging words of his funny, resilient ma. His lesbian sister, Paula, is in even worse shape as she tries to drink and drug her way through her grief, claiming she is being haunted by a ghost under her bed. There’s nothing for it but to have a séance, led by Denny’s childhood friend Pajo, a green-haired ex-heroin addict with a mystical bent (one who “may be a Buddhist but still drinks like a Catholic”). Mad for wrestling and Guinness, Denny and his pals do their best to keep the darkness at bay, trading sharp one-liners in a thick Irish brogue. They prove irresistible even as Byrne offers up a caustic portrait of modern Dublin and life on the dole. --Joanne Wilkinson