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The Stray Sod Country

af Patrick McCabe

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5112400,910 (3)8
It is 1958, and as Laika, the Sputnik dog is launched into space, Golly Murray, the Cullymore barber's wife, finds herself oddly obsessing about the canine cosmonaut.
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In this book, McCabe captures a wide variety of crazy, each represented by a different member of a small Irish town. As in real life, sometimes the madness is normal and well-concealed, other times it's overt, and the reader is forced to ponder which is more dangerous—the devil that's known, or that that lurks beneath the surface.

Although written with McCabe's typical unblinking stare and gritty insight, the book isn't the easiest read. Characters so deeply flawed are hard to love, and the meandering plot - which mimics the wont of the insane - doesn't bring one easily back to the book once set down. A worthwhile read, but altogether unenjoyable (which perhaps is part of the story's experience). ( )
  JolieB | Jul 22, 2011 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
I received and started reading The Stray Sod Country in mid-November. But I had difficulty making it much past the first tenth of the novel, being largely unrewarded by McCabe’s portraits of 1950’s Irish village life—featuring a seemingly endless cast of characters with little to no, well, point seeming to arise. This spring break, I finally mustered enough sheer will to barrel through the book’s rambling fits and starts (or maybe it was just ecstatic momentum from conquering the behemoth of Mists of Avalon), out of a sense of obligation. So was there a point?

The titular ‘Stray Sod Country’ of McCabe’s novel is explained as a piece of Irish folklore: a place of mind that alienates one from seeing the familiar as familiar again, or more shortly--“cosmic loneliness”… or what we’d probably today call existential angst. Because the residents of Cullymore, Ireland are being observed by the narrative lens of none other than the ‘Fetch’ himself, the Devil who manipulates and feeds the fears and doubts of the broadly-drawn villagers to tragic ends, while at the same time proclaiming he does naught but observe their own destructive tendencies. Such contradictory and confounding muddle characterizes Stray Sod Country. While McCabe isn’t totally untalented in creating weight within the tortured psyches of his characters, he overplays their single-minded neuroses over the course of the novel, leaving them no more than caricatures.

McCabe may be trying to say something about the Cold War or village life, or the consuming power of ignored irrationality in the age of reason, or the crushing weight of religion… but it’s impossible for me to tell within this doddering mess. But given if how I felt wadding as the book seemed to go and on eternally, I definitely felt maybe some of the characters should have worried less of going to the Fetch and more about hell on Earth. ( )
  kaionvin | Apr 3, 2011 |
I won this book on Goodreads.com. Overall, I'd say that I liked the book. The writing was a little hard to follow at times, very choppy, but the story itself was interesting. I especially liked the evolving role of the narrator. I wasn't expecting that at all. ( )
  Anietzerck | Mar 2, 2011 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
i just couldn't get into this. i don't know if it was the lack of quotations (yea, i'm one of those folks that needs it spelled out when characters are talking--the dashes weren't cutting it for me) or the dark tone (too many bad things happened to animals for my taste) but i couldn't finish the book. ( )
  pru-lennon | Feb 19, 2011 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
I'm having a good deal of trouble giving voice to just what my issues with this one were. It wasn't badly written by any means, with no major stylistic issues (a few minor quirks that made me grind my teeth, like the lack of quotation marks and the italicization of many, but not all, proper nouns) -- a bit choppy in parts, perhaps, but no cardinal sins to drive me away.

I think, in the end, my issue was that for a good 80 to 90 percent of the book I just didn't care about the characters. Which is a problem, as for probably the first two thirds of the book new characters are constantly being introduced; it's a book with a large cast, and I'll admit that with every new character I was left hoping that maybe this one would be one I'd care about and left disappointed that it wasn't.

(Perhaps that was the problem? That the continual increase in cast size meant that none of the other characters had a chance to develop enough.)

Regardless of that, I mention that I didn't really care about it for the first 80-90%, the last 30-60 pages is really all conclusion and denouement, all wrapping up the plot threads, jumping around in time as necessary. It has a few problems, in that some of the few points of suspense and tension from earlier in the book get spoiled before we see the resolution but, being one of the few points where I cared at all about what was happening, I'm willing to forgive those.

In the end? Maybe not a bad book. Maybe not a good book. Definitely not the book for me. ( )
  g026r | Feb 10, 2011 |
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It is 1958, and as Laika, the Sputnik dog is launched into space, Golly Murray, the Cullymore barber's wife, finds herself oddly obsessing about the canine cosmonaut.

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