- Hardcover: 192 pages
- Publisher: Canongate U.S.; 1st edition (February 17, 2006)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1841957402
- ISBN-13: 978-1841957401
- Product Dimensions: 8.4 x 5.9 x 1.2 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 26 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #7,207,759 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Carry Me Down 1st Edition
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From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. A spare, piercing testimony to the bewilderment and resiliency of youth, Hyland's second novel (following How the Light Gets In) filters the adult world through the distressed lens of adolescence, which makes every change look like a test of survival. John Egan is an extremely tall 11-year-old boy living in the small town of Gorey, Ireland, with the moody triumvirate of his mother, father and grandmother. As he faces the trials of home and school life, John feels he has no place in the world, and his frustration fuels odd obsessions: with the Guinness Book of World Records, with physical human contact and with his "gift" for detecting lies. His parents, already sorting through their own uneasy relationship, puzzle over their only son with doctors and teachers, pushing John to a moment of crisis, which may prove his undoing. John's voice is singular and powerful throughout: "I wait anxiously for my turn, thinking that he'll soon discover me and know that I'm different. I've already decided that I'll tell him about my gift." By the subtle, satisfying dénouement, one is rooting for John's place in the Guinness book and saving a space for him among the year's memorable characters. (Mar.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
At 11, John Egan is nearly six feet tall with a deep voice, and he feels like a freak, especially after he wets himself in class. John believes he is a gifted human lie detector, and he himself is a great liar; his obsession is to be famous and have his gift recognized in the Guinness Book of World Records. But why is Dad lying? The child's naive first-person, present-tense narrative brings achingly close his helplessness in a powerful adult world. He may be a giant, but he has no control. Why suddenly is the family moving? Where to? What is wrong? When they land up in the public-housing projects in Dublin, the scary threat seems to be from a brutal street gang, but the real terror turns out to be in the intimacy of his home. Focused on small things, the quiet plain scenes of daily life lead to the surprising and unforgettable climax. Pain is harder than ignorance. Who needs the truth? Hazel Rochman
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
Top customer reviews
After Carry Me Down, I found it hard to choose my next book to read. I wanted nothing more than to continue to live in the aching and poignant world of Hyland's characters.
All these experiences are filtered through the perspective of John's 12-year old's take on events. By choosing to tell the story in the voice of this consummate unreliable narrator, Hyland sets herself a challenge that ultimately becomes a trap from which she doesn't really manage to escape. Some quirks of John's character are believable (his conviction that he has `superhuman' lie-detecting abilities, and his obsession with having these documented in the Guinness Book of Records), but his Asperger-like tics and increasingly obvious inability to read the limited information available to him correctly make it increasingly difficult for the reader to figure out exactly what is happening. Hyland's way of getting around this trap of her own devising is -- it took me a while to realise this, and I suspect she may not have realised it -- to have the various adults in the story interact with John in a way that is actually completely implausible for a child of his age. There are scenes between John and each of his parents which leave you shaking your head in disbelief. This further undermines the credibility of the story. Another major problem is that Hyland's depiction of attitudes and behavior in Irish society at the time (the 1970s) seems off by at least 20 years; that is, she imputes behavior of her own generation to that of her parents.
All of this makes the climactic events in the book just not credible. The violent eruption in Ballymun is overwrought, and the resolution too pat. So that this ambitious, flawed, novel fails to fulfil its potential. It is a decent book, but it could have been a great one.
Also, am I the only person to be bothered by novels told totally in the present tense? This trend is starting to get on my nerves.
The focus of this book is on the brutality of childhood, as well as the huge impact parents play in forming the psyches of their children. Though not an abused child per se, John Egan is raised by somewhat unstable parents who don't always provide him with the emotional and financial stability he so desperately needs. He becomes a compulsive liar who's convinced he has a preternatural ability to detect lies in others, and as such he's somewhat an unreliable narrator. The reader can read between the lines and get a good general idea of the truth, by knowing the reactions of the other characters, so the occasional delusions of John are easily seen through. He is a liar, but not a sophisticated one. There's a lot of innocence in him, through it all, and this is what gets our sympathy. He's a child who needs a lot of love and who gets precious little, and that's what breaks the reader's heart more than anything.
After finishing this book last evening I cannot get it out of my head. It's dark and sometimes depressing, but in the end redemptive. No wonder the Booker committee chose it. It illustrates a very good instinct for picking out another up-and-comer to watch.
I expect Hyland may not have the visibility to actually win the prize, but this is one of the most heart-rending books I've read in a while, and it definitely deserves making the Longlist. It's so worth making the effort to fit this one into your reading schedule.