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"Long Island" | Reviewed by William Winkler

Irish author Colm Tóibín has published 11 novels, more than a score of non-fiction books, and by his estimate “thousands” of articles. He is currently a tenured professor at New York City’s Columbia University.

Tóibín’s most recent novel, “Long Island,” is a sequel to his “Brooklyn,” published in 2009. “Long Island’s” publisher characterizes the book as the second of the “Eilis Lacey Series.”

The narrative opens two decades after the conclusion of “Brooklyn.” Eilis Lacey, an Irish immigrant is the wife of plumber Tony Fiorello one of four Italian-American brothers, three of whom live with their parents in a family enclave on a cul-de-sac in the Long Island suburb of Lindenhurst.

Eilis learns in the first pages that her husband has fathered a child by a woman for whom he was doing some plumbing work. The cuckolded husband, an Irishman, informs Eilis that the instant the child is born it will be brought to the Fiorello house, and if no one is there to accept the baby, it will be left on the doorstep.

Eilis has never had reason to doubt her husband’s fidelity. This revelation instigates a chain of events driving her to plan a return to her hometown of Enniscorthy, County Wexford, in the southeast of Ireland. Her visit is ostensibly to celebrate her mother’s 80th birthday, but the timing also will keep her in Enniscorthy at the projected time of the child’s birth. This months-long absence from the extended Fiorello family will, she believes, give her time to consider her response to this turn of events.

Eilis’s husband informs her that he and his mother will accept the child and raise it as their own until suitable placement can be arranged.

Eilis’s stay in Enniscorthy leads to re-establishment of old relationships, some of which become complicated as the novel moves toward its conclusion.

Tóibín has said about his writing, “Ending a novel is almost like putting a child to sleep – it can't be done abruptly." And the conclusion to “Long Island” is anything but abrupt. After deftly developing relationships between the numerous central characters Tóibín leaves the reader waiting for a resolution which will arrive in the next novel of the series.




 

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