Firstly, thank you to the publisher for sending me this book via Netgalley. I feel privileged to have read this book, it certainly deserved to be longlisted for the 2015 Man Booker Prize.
Spanning thirty years and three continents, The Green Road tells the story of Rosaleen, matriarch of the Madigan family, and her four children.
Ardeevin, County Clare, Ireland, 1980. When her oldest brother Dan announces he will enter the priesthood, young Hanna watches her mother howl in agony and retreat to her room. In the years that follow, the Madigan children leave on by one: Dan for the frenzy of New York under the shadow of AIDS; Constance for a hospital in Limerick, where petty antics follow simple tragedy; Emmet for the backlands of Mali, where he learns the fragility of love and order; and Hanna for modern-day Dublin and the trials of her own motherhood. When Christmas Day reunites the children under one roof, each confronts the terrible weight of family ties and the journey that brought them home.
This book centre's around a family that throughout three decades become further apart both physically and mentally.
The story begins with Hanna aged twelve, recognising her mother Rosaleen as a passive aggressive woman who seems completely oblivious of this herself. Throughout the novel she expresses her feelings of disappointment towards her children and feels that they have let her down. We begin to realise that Rosaleen is living alone whilst her offspring are continents apart, this suggested to me that her bitterness stems from perhaps jealousy because she's not part of their day-to-day lives and she's stuck there in the picturesque County Clare without companionship, as it's clear Pat Madigan her husband is no longer with them.
The children, Dan, Constance, Emmett, and Hanna from the beginning in their own separate chapters convey how they deal with their mothers poor attitude towards them in their unique ways. What they all have in common is that whatever they do it never seems good enough in the eyes of their mother who ironically hadn't done much with her own life.
Despite Rosaleen claiming her children don't have anything going on with their lives, this becomes forgotten as each of them have their own struggles in life. Dan the family golden boy is living in America during the time where AIDS is of concern and he's living a life with confusion over his sexuality. He supposedly moved to America to become a priest but this appears to not have come about. Hanna is living in Dublin with her newborn baby and boyfriend and struggling with an alcohol addiction. Emmett an aid worker jumping from Africa to Asia struggles with settling down and Constance married with children is in bad health.
Rosaleen drops the bombshell of selling the family home and invites her children for one last Christmas, like any drama around Christmas it was awkward and rather upsetting to see a family with such a hostile atmosphere. Rosaleen comes down on her children of how disappointed she is with them and their lives, which they seem to accept. I think the reason they give in to Rosaleen is because arguing with her seems like a waste of time, they're used to not being good enough. Even though Rosaleen is hard to please and a difficult woman all round, the events of Christmas night reflect a different side to her.
I loved how this novel worked out, a complicated family with a lack of communication. For me even if Rosaleen wasn't a likeable character she is the one who brings the family together, if she had not kept in touch with all of her children they may well have got on with their lives and never heard from each other again. So despite their differences the relationship works. I'd like to say all the loose ends tied up in the end and all was well but when is everything all well in life anyway? Let's just say things turned out different to how I originally pictured it would.
Enright is a clever writer who picks up on the true nature of what family is all about even if some things become rocky, love is still there and it's unconditional. A realistic and in many ways a very relatable story.