Entrapment is a recurring theme in the art of Thomas Moran. His first novel, The Man in the Box
, concerns a Jew hiding from Nazis in a secret, boxlike room in an Austrian farmer's barn. His next, The World I Made for Her
, features a protagonist imprisoned within his own disease-ravaged body. In Water, Carry Me
, Moran expands beyond physical constraints to explore the greatest trap of all: love. When we first meet Una Moss, she is in her final year of medical school in Ireland. Orphaned at the age of 8, she has grown up uneasily straddling two worlds: that of her working-class grandfather, Rawney, with whom she lives in a village outside of Cork, and the upper-class milieu of private school and moneyed friends. Early in the novel Moran hints at the political themes that will soon enmesh her: Rawney, a railroad engineer, frequently carries mysterious crates "all the way to Sligo, up near the Ulster border," and boasts of his "dangerous friends." In reality, though, his friends are more endangered than dangerous: Mungo, the fisherman who occasionally brings strange packages ashore in his boat, is the victim of a mysterious shipwreck; Des and Mick, who help load the contraband, are both picked up by the police, only to reappear weeks later with "a hole in their lives, an awful, secret space, a haunting."
Indeed everyone in Moran's novel is haunted in some way by the conflict in Northern Ireland. Una herself was orphaned because of her father's involvement with one side or the other:
The violence is like a virus moving invisibly through our blood, the IRA and the Ulster Defense Association the Typhoid Marys of it. It kills some, and deadens the hearts of the rest of us. Nobody but idiots--and the mad fanatics--are immune.
Neither, it turns out, is Una. Though at first she manages to lead a fairly normal life--going to school, spending time with her friends, and even falling in love with charming Aidan Ferrel--eventually the Troubles engulf her, too, and it is love that proves to be her undoing. In the haunting, heartbreaking Water, Carry Me
Moran weaves the political and the personal into a net so subtle that his characters don't know they've been caught in it until it's too late. --Alix Wilber
From Library Journal
Though unclear until its conclusion, Moran's compelling third novel continues his explorations of confinement and memory. As Una Moss, a young Irish Catholic medical student from Cobh and the heroine of the story, notes, "Times past are not times gone, so long as they live inside you. My memory's like a theater?." For Una, her memories of floating peacefully in the sea are all she will have to sustain her during her coming ordeal. Like so many Irish, she has found herself tangled in "the troubles," even though she is unwilling to accept heir reality. After her mother and father are killed in a car "accident" when she is eight, her Grandda, a crotchety old railway engineer who makes weekly runs to Sligo, takes care of her. Life goes on, and when, as a medical student, she meets Aidan Ferrel, she thinks that at last she has found "the one." He adores her, but he is very quiet about his past. Born in the North, he does not like talking about the things he has seen, and when he does, he expresses only repulsion at the excesses of both sides. All too soon reality strikes in the form of an "18th century" plaque that piques the interest of an airport security guard dog. This is a well-crafted, haunting tale filled with very human characters caught in a web much bigger than themselves. Highly recommended for all public and larger academic libraries.David W. Henderson, Eckerd Coll. Lib., St. Petersburg, FL
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