The Run of the Country

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

This well-written autobiographical novel by the author of the script for the acclaimed movie, MY LEFT FOOT, is set in the hard rural country near the border between the Republic of Ireland and British-ruled Northern Ireland. The nameless central character is a young man whose mother dies after trying to mediate one of the frequent quarrels between the young man and his father, a sergeant in the Irish police. Her death sends the young man out of the house, determined not to return to school.

He is given refuge by his best friend, a slightly older youth named Prunty, and his friend’s mother. Prunty introduces him to smuggling consumer goods across the border, an activity the young man finds satisfying mostly because it is an act of defiance toward his father. The father, for his part, is content to let his son know that he can be arrested at any time. The lad also learns to work hard, digging peat for sale and doing the chores on Mrs. Prunty’s small farm.

The boy considers and discards several possible occupations. He thinks about joining the IRA, but Prunty points out that he is not a fighter, and that idea is abandoned. He talks about becoming a priest, but Prunty convinces him to steal into the rectory to try on the priest’s vestments, and in a hilarious scene they succeed, blessing a farmer’s pig while the young hero is in the priest’s clothing. The idea of the priesthood, too, is abandoned.

The young man falls in love...

(The entire section is 403 words.)