Tempting as it sometimes seems, it’s impossible to run away from your life, or from yourself. But interesting things can happen when you take yourself off to new places. That’s the starting point for Catherine O’Flynn’s delightful and deeply satisfying new novel “Mr. Lynch’s Holiday.” Dermot Lynch, a recently widowed and retired bus driver, has decided to visit his son Eamonn and Eamonn’s wife Laura, in their new, still under construction community of Lomaverde in Southern Spain.
Nothing seems to work well in Spain, not the mail, not the police, not Eamonn and Laura’s marriage, and, to be truthful, not Eamonn himself. He and Laura emigrated with high hopes; both of them telecommuted to publishing jobs, and there seemed to be no reason not to invest their life savings in a community – with a swimming pool – in warm sunny Spain. Then came the worldwide economic crash and the loss of both jobs. Laura is writing a novel, and so is Eamonn, he says, but mostly he is teaching English. It’s dispiriting, and Laura has decided to return to England for an extended visit “to think.” She’s not returning his phone calls, or his texts, or his emails.
Though Eamonn has told none of this to his father, and it is several weeks before Eamonn confesses that Laura has gone on more than a research trip, it’s obvious to Dermot that things are not right. Lomaverde is mostly abandoned, or perhaps was never inhabited. There are a few other denizens, and Dermot slowly makes their acquaintance. but there’s plenty of time for father-son bonding over walks and meals. Eamonn slips further into despair, while Dermot, far from being unhappy, blossoms in the southern sun. The attentions of a Swedish emigrée painter help, as does the fact that there’s a lot in Eamonn’s flat that needs fixing, and Dermot is very handy.
The prose is spare and sere, like the southern Spanish landscape. Here’s Eamonn’s view of Dermot at the start of Dermot’s visit:
Every image Eamonn had of his father was of him busying himself at some task. If not actually out at work, he would be gardening, or washing the Astra, or rearranging tools in the garage, or doing something impenetrable with the gutters. Even his occasional moments of relaxation had an intent quality to them. A concerted decision to sit down and watch a television program between certain times.
O’Flynn tells her story by alternating between the viewpoints of the two men. She reaches back into their history, shared and separate, with warmth and humor. This technique lets the reader get close to both Dermot and Eamonn while watching each of them come to understand that he is . . . but that would be giving too much away. O’Flynn brings the novel to a satisfying and fully credible conclusion.
There are several vignettes that stayed with me from this book. Do you have a favorite moment? Let us know in the comments.
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