“Where the Edge Is” by Grainne Murphy

Genre: Literary FictionWhere the edge is
Publisher: Legend Press
Pub. Date: Sept. 15, 2020

The book’s title refers to the edge of a sinkhole, where most of its characters find themselves trapped. It may also be a metaphor for those who, through no fault of their own, live on the edge of their emotions. A town in rural Ireland wakes up to the news that a road has collapsed, swallowing up a bus with eight people stuck inside.  As the vehicle slowly falls deeper into the earth, the media is all over the story interfering with the rescue team’s attempt to get them out before it is too late. Doesn’t this sound like an action-packed, plot-driven novel?  It is actually a character-driven tale that explores trauma, loss, grief, and survival. Each chapter portrays the lives of the passengers and their families. As well as a news reporter and her ex-husband who is the fire department liaison.  No, this does not morph into a cheap romance novel. Their reconnection, though a bit contrived, helps explore the novel’s broader themes.

Racial and identity issues are examined when the white male bus driver pulls out a brown-skinned female passenger. The author has such control over her characters’ voices that the reader can hear them speak.  He is a regular sort of guy who just wants to please his beloved aging mom and win back his ex-wife.  A sweetheart of a man, yet months before the incident he was suspended for saying a racial slur.  The woman who he saves has lived in Ireland since she was a small child, married to an Irish man, can sing all the Irish songs, and has adapted to the Irish way of life including going to Sunday Mass, but still, the press refers to her as a Pakistani.  Murphy nails her frustration.

While never feeling forced, the author will tug at your heart describing the underground conversations of those trapped in the bus, and the panic of their families above the ground. The author’s ability to go back and forth in time, to reflect on her characters’ multiple points of view, while never losing the feeling of their desperation is admirable. Her talent makes the characters stick with you, haunting you, well after you have read the last page and know the outcome of their ordeal. I was so impressed with the storytelling in this debut novel that I googled the author.  I was not surprised to learn that many of her short stories were shortlisted and longlisted for literary awards.  Without a doubt, I will be on the lookout for her next novel.

I received this Advance Review Copy (ARC) novel from the publisher at no cost in exchange for an honest review.

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