Bernard MacLaverty

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What happens when Cal wants to go and see his father before Christmas?

When Cal wants to go and see his dad before Christmas, he finds out that his dad is in a hospital, where he’ll receive electroconvulsive therapy to treat his depression.

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After Cal and Marcella have sex and Cal tells her that he loves her, Cal goes into town to do some Christmas shopping. He spends three days' worth of pay on a tiny bottle of perfume for Marcella. For his dad, Shamie, Cal buys the usual aftershave and shaving stick. This year, Cal throws in a 1,000-piece jigsaw. He thinks the puzzle could help lift Shamie’s spirits. Shamie has been depressed. Terrible things have happened to Shamie and Cal. Cal was nearly beaten up by members of the Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF), the anti-Catholic, pro-UK militia. After two warnings, the UVF burned down Shamie and Cal’s house.

Cal ends up living in a cottage on the farm while Shamie lives with a cousin named Dermot. After picking out presents for Marcella, Shamie, and Lucy, Cal heads to Dermot’s house to see his dad. Dermot doesn’t answer the front door, so Cal tries the backdoor. The back door is open, but no one is home. Cal sits and waits for Dermot and his dad to return. Dermot returns, but Cal’s dad isn’t with him. Cal asks where his dad is. Dermot tells him that Shamie “was worse than they thought.” Cal discovers that his dad is in a hospital where he’ll receive “electrical shock treatment” (electroconvulsive therapy).

As the hospital is far away, Cal needs the van to drive out and see him. Unfortunately, a series of incidents, including a bomb in the library, prevent Cal from visiting his dad before Christmas.

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