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Anakana Schofield’s debut novel, Malarky, lives up to its title. The main character of this book is known as Philomena, Phil, Kathleen, and Our Woman. Just looking at this variety of names of the part time narrator drags up many questions. This book is written in episodes that do not seem to be easily definable as having any particular subject for each one and the only thing drawing them together is that the reader knows they must have to be a portion of Philomena’s life.
The writing and speech presented in this book are at once confusing, intriguing, and, at times, utterly hilarious. Dialogue is never written within quotation marks, but there are dashes that allow the reader to see that someone is speaking.
Do not think this is the only time in the novel when a character is speaking aloud, though. Often times a character will speak aloud and it will not be noticed as such until a few lines later. The difficulty of deciphering who is talking and who is hearing the words or not can be frustrating, but if readers stick to the book they will not be disappointed.
Eventually, Schofield’s style of writing will start to grow on the reader and the story will become far more heartfelt than it first appears. The obsessive nature of a mother appears through her seemingly voyeuristic nature in relation to the men in her life, especially her son, changes from being strange and distancing to understandable and even emotionally frightening. Page by page, readers gather clues to the reasons behind Philomena’s actions with other men and even her fixation with the positioning of objects on her kitchen table.
As Philomena tries to cope with the troubling reality of her marriage, her fascination with men, and the complicated circumstances that always seem to surround her son, readers will start to worry about her. Everything that she narrates that had been taken as a faithful retelling will soon be questioned. At times she makes absolute sense in her description of her frustration, but when others start to question her so will readers.
The heartrending emotions Philomena feels and the transfer of these to the reader is one of the only consistencies in the novel, but the underlying themes of Malarky will arouse fascination enough in readers to make them turn pages. Although, not at first discernible, this novel illustrates a different view of the effects of the war on Iraq.
An Irish mother must learn to cope with a failing marriage as her son reveals his secret to her and then leaves for America to join the army. Philomena, mother and inconsistent narrator, finds humor within these hard-hitting circumstances, but is also knocked down by horrifying depression. It is up to the reader to decide whether her resilience holds out or if insanity is the result of the distress she has suffered.
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