33. Charming Billy: A Novel by Alice McDermott (1998)
Length: 243 pages
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Started: 27 June 2016
Finished: 1 July 2016
Where did it come from? From a Library Book Sale
How long has it been on my TBR pile? Since 21 November 2001
Why do I have it? I like contemporary fiction and Alice McDermott is a new author for me.
The people who knew and loved Billy Lynch the best have all come to comfort his widow Maeve, and to eulogize a man whom many considered to be one of the last great romantics. From all accounts, the late Billy Lynch was such a wonderful man – a man who was an extraordinarily unique soul. As forty-seven members of his funeral party gather together at a local Bronx bar to reminisce over their memories of the past; each trading their own tales of his legendary humor, immense charm, and deepest, most profound sorrow – Billy Lynch will be remembered most by the people whose lives were touched by his presence.
As the mourners linger on into this extraordinary evening, their voices will eventually blend together to tell Billy’s own tragic story. What is finally revealed to all present is a complex portrait of an enigmatic man; a loyal friend, a beloved husband, a functional alcoholic. While Billy’s loved ones continue to hold Maeve in the highest esteem and admire her strength, there are those among the mourners who cannot remember Billy without also recalling the source of his unfathomable grief and sadness: “There was that girl.” Their various stories weave together to become a gentle homage to all the lives in their close-knit community fractured by grief, shattered by secrets, yet sustained by the simple dream of love.
In a voice that is resonant and full of deep feeling, Alice McDermott tells the tale of Billy Lynch within the complex confines of a tightly knit Irish-American community. Charming Billy is a poignant masterpiece about the unbreakable bonds of desire and memory. Ms. McDermott’s striking novel, is an intricate study of the lies that bind and the weight of familial love, of the way good intentions can be as destructive as the truth they were meant to hide.
I must say that I really enjoyed reading this book. In my opinion, this was a poignant and well-written story; one that I found both intriguing and intricately detailed. Having said that, I will admit that I found the book somewhat confusing with regards to some of the relationships between the characters and the frequent shifts back and forth between the past and the present. I would still give this book an A! and am happy to note that I have three or four more books by this author on my bookshelf.
A! – (90-95%)
Till we Meet Again, Glow Brightly as Moonlight