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The Banyan Tree

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

Christopher Nolan is a mute and paralyzed writer. Writing is physically difficult for him. An assistant must hold his head while he strikes his typewriter with a stick attached to his head. It took him twelve years to complete this beautiful novel, The Banyan Tree, which describes the long life of a simple woman whose loves are her family and their farm.

With a great deal of wit and psychological insight, Nolan helps readers to understand Minnie O’Brien’s development from a naive young girl into a mature and strong woman who overcomes the death of her beloved husband Peter and the rather unsatisfactory lives of her three children. She sacrifices so that each child can receive a solid education, but each child disappoints her. Her first son Brendan enters the priesthood and becomes a bishop, but he becomes an alcoholic and this reduces his effectiveness as a clergyman. Daughter Sheila becomes a registered nurse, but she marries a wealthy financier who never strives to meet her emotional needs. Minnie expresses her unconditional love for her third child Francis, who takes menial jobs around the world. After her husband’s death, she stays on her farm. Just before her death all three of her children return to her home in Drumhollow.

This wonderful novel by a courageous writer enables readers to experience for themselves the rich complexity of rural Irish culture as seen through the eyes of a proud and loving farmer named Minnie O’Brien.