‘The Blood Miracles’ by Lisa McInerney

My rating: 3 stars

Lisa McInerney’s first novel, The Glorious Heresies, is told from the perspectives of five characters. One of them, Ryan Cusack, is the sole protagonist of The Blood Miracles. This isn’t the only difference between the two novels, though. Her latest isn’t, unfortunately, as enthralling as I hoped, since the plot focuses almost merely on drug dealing and the characters are not as fleshed out as they could have been.

Ryan’s life is in turmoil. Although he was born and grew up in Cork, he is fluent in Italian, thanks to his dual heritage. His boss, Dan, wants to make use of his language skills in a new drug route from Italy to Ireland. At the same time, Colm expects Ryan to be his partner at a music venue he is planning to open. But, now that they are in their early twenties, his girlfriend, Karine, wants him to change his ways and leave the world of drugs behind. Amid all of this, he meets Natalie, who brings additional trouble, and reunites with Maureen, who helped him before, despite him not remembering the details.

Sadly, the book focuses too much on the issues concerning drug dealing and night clubs to the point that it gets tiresome. That is a problem particularly because some of the characters who are part of Ryan’s life, such as Natalie and Dan, are too cardboard, and even Ryan is not as fleshed out and complex as in The Glorious Heresies. He is on a self-destructive path, but there isn’t enough exploration of it. The writing style has, overall, a very fast and turbulent rhythm, as if to mimic the torrent of events surrounding Ryan. His feelings, though, are only occasionally explored.

There are some moments of introspection throughout the book, but they are mostly only found in the parts written in the first person by Ryan and addressed to his Italian mother. We learn more about his childhood and it becomes obvious that the past still affects him deeply. These are by far the best parts. Only the interactions between Ryan and Maureen are almost as moving. She has that peculiar wit of older people and understands that Ryan is much more sentimental than he wants to admit.

The last third of the book is more character-focused. Some revelations give a fresh impetus not only to the plot, which becomes more defined, but also to the development of the characters. Sadly, this happens too close to the end.

Ryan is an interesting character, so I understand Lisa McInerney’s desire to write a novel with him as the sole protagonist. However, his inner feelings are not fully explored and the problems arising from his involvement in the dealing of drugs didn’t grip me.


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