Publishers Weekly (review date 26 January 1998)
SOURCE: Review of The Long Falling, in Publishers Weekly, January 26, 1998, p. 67.
[In the following review, the critic opines that Ridgway's characters' tendency toward excessive imperviousness and heartlessness "may leave readers cold".]
Set in Ireland, this grim debut follows a middle-aged woman on her doomed escape from her abusive, alcoholic husband. Grace Quinn's husband (a deliberate symbol of male brutality who's never identified by a given name) beats her, and his bullying has already banished their younger son, Martin, from their home after the boy's confession that he is gay. One evening, Grace makes an extreme, shocking bid for freedom and flees their small rural town for Dublin. Ironically, she arrives there during the furor that surrounded the real-life 1992 "X Case," in which a 13-year-old rape victim was prevented from traveling to England for an abortion. When her son in turn banishes her, Grace's isolation is played out in a small boarding house alongside the more public suffering of "X," for whom the nation rallies in sympathy. The novel poses interesting questions about the status of women in a changing Ireland, but it so insistently refuses to answer them that the problems take on a strained, academic tone. Despite Ridgway's ambition, the book is mired by the main characters' puzzling disaffection toward one another. Grace has sunk too far into emotional stultification for readers to empathize with her, and Ridgway never quite saves selfish Martin from our contempt when he tosses his mother out. In short, this book's prevailing lack of love—and oddly complacent attitude toward this lack—may leave readers cold.