Songdogs : a novel /

Main Author: McCann, Colum, 1965-
Format: Book
Language: English
Published: New York : Metropolitan Books, 1995.
Edition: 1st American ed.
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Review by Choice Review

This first novel reads like the work of an established, mature writer. Comparisons with other writers are somewhat unfair given McCann's distinct abilities, but McCann's work may remind readers of a combination of Norman Macleans's A River Runs through It and some of John McGahern's novels. Like those writers, McCann deftly explores the dynamics of familial relations, the unexpected delights and ambushes and the enduring ties that solidify even dysfunctional relatives. The book is a bildungsroman centering on Conor Lyons, a young Irish-Mexican who returns to the Irish home of his father after traveling throughout Mexico and the US in search of his vanished mother. Conor and his father have an aloof, strained relationship that gradually leads to muted moments of love and understanding. The novel's title refers to a Navajo myth about coyotes singing in the creation of the universe. This is the story of Conor's attempt to re-create himself and his life, and it is McCann's creative introduction to what this reviewer hopes will be a long and prolific career. All collections. D. W. Madden; California State University, Sacramento

Copyright American Library Association, used with permission.
Review by Publisher's Weekly Review

Irish writer McCann's first novel is a powerful, sometimes mesmerizing commentary on the nature of family and identity, memory and loss. The story opens with 23-year-old narrator Conor Lyons, just returned to Ireland after a five-year trip abroad, spying on his father fly-fishing in a polluted river. The narrative goes on to detail the young man's week-long visit home, a sojourn that proves important primarily in how it relates to, and evokes, the past‘beginning with a reconstruction of the father's life as a photographer and adventurer wandering first through war-wracked Spain and then through Mexico, where he meets and marries Conor's mother. The couple moves to the U.S. and on to Ireland, where the narrator is born. Conor's parents have a turbulent marriage, ending in the mother's mysterious disappearance when Conor is 12; it was to retrace his parents' travels, hoping to find his missing mother, that Conor left his homeland. Focusing on remembrance, McCann links events by mood as much as by date, employing prose of a poetic logic and musical cadence that binds transitions of character, time and place into a cogent melody and pattern. Toward novel's end, we begin to see that Conor's search for his mother in the territory of the past is as futile as his father's quest for a giant fish in a dead river. In a moving climax, the author illustrates that it is the quest for, rather than the attainment of, personal grails that defines and redeems us as individuals. (Oct.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Review by Library Journal Review

This first novel by a young Irish writer living in America is a sad, even grim tale of a boy's search for an explanation for the disintegration of his family. Conor Lyons goes to Ireland as a young adult and stays for a time with his father, who now lives in dreary, unkempt circumstances. He tries to discover why his Mam left the family when he was a boy. Part of the mystery seems to lie in the erotic images his father, a wandering photographer, had made of Mam when she was young. The awkward, painful understanding between father and son is the best part of the novel, which, despite almost unrelieved wretchedness, shows considerable promise. For larger collections.-Ann H. Fisher, Radford P.L., Va. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

(c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Review by Kirkus Book Review

Dublin-born New Yorker McCann, already winner of several Irish literary prizes, weighs in with a moody, sharply imaged, but ultimately inconclusive debut about a young man coping with a long-absent mother and an ailing, crotchety father. Conor has come home to Ireland from his travels in North America, after years of fruitless searching there for his Mam, to find his father obsessively fly-fishing a polluted river near their house, unsteady on his feet and slovenly in his habits. The 23-year-old, though, checks his first impulse to flee unseen and tries to make the old man, racked by a smoker's cough but fiercely independent, a little more comfortable during his brief stay. As they spend time together, Conor mentally retraces his steps, patching together his experiences abroad with memories of his childhood and details of his parents' much-traveled lives before his birth. His Irish father, a photographer by inclination, fled to Mexico from the Spanish Civil War, where he met Juanita in a dusty northern town, married and photographed her while settling there and raising chickens until her mother died and the couple could hit the road. After stints in San Francisco and Wyoming, they came to New York, where the dream of work in photography was burned away like morning mist by the hot reality of roofing. Finally, Ireland beckoned as the only place left for a man to regain his self-respect. But when in Conor's childhood his father published a volume of the erotic photos he'd taken of his wife over the years, town tongue-wagging set them all, and Juanita especially, apart, until she set fire to his darkroom one night and disappeared. As Conor puts the pieces together, he's able to tell his father of his search and lay his long-smoldering resentment to rest. Ably written in its particulars yet loose-leafed in the assembly: a work of promise having parts far greater than the whole. Copyright ©Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.