Political hopelessness hangs thick over Cal, a novel of love and guilt set against the backdrop of the Troubles. More, it seems to have infected the author, a well-regarded Scotch-Irish writer, with a lethargy of spirit. For despite many admirable touches, Cal lacks that energy of language, invention, or plot through which art transcends tragedy while depicting it. (p. 3)
The very terms of its story limit the novel's range of representation and meaning. Cal is a 19-year-old Catholic youth lured into a loose affiliation with "the Movement," the euphemism Mac Laverty uses for the Provisional IRA. A year before the novel opens, Cal sat behind the wheel of a getaway car while a Provo gunman...
(The entire section is 797 words.)