The Connelly’s of County Down by Tracey Lange
Fiction | Literary Fiction
I will openly admit that general fiction and literary fiction aren’t genres I find myself naturally drawn toward. So when an advance copy of The Connellys of County Down landed on my doorstep a few months ago, I was hesitant to pick it up. But when a few fantastic reviews and the gorgeous cover finally led me to pull this story off the bookshelf, I was unable to put it down. I found myself mesmerized by the complex family dynamics and well-rounded characters. (Which just proves as yet another reminder to never judge a book by its genre!)
The Connellys of County Down is a shorter novel but it hits home in all the right places. Switching seamlessly between character perspectives, the plot moves forward purposefully and with good pacing. The writing is fresh and succinct, sucking readers into the lives of characters that are messy and flawed, but whom you can’t help but feel drawn toward nonetheless.
Tara’s just gotten out of prison after an eighteen-month sentence for drug trafficking. With nowhere else to go and no job to return to, she moves back in with her siblings, Eddie and Geraldine. Her brother, Eddie, is a single dad who deals with the lasting effects of a traumatizing brain injury he suffered as a teen. And Geraldine is struggling under the weight of her own anxieties, and the added uncertainties that come with having Tara home again. Together, they face the secrets and trauma that they’ve each been carrying for far too long.
Each of the characters are well-fleshed out, making for very believable interactions and motivations. While Geraldine’s character was frustrating beyond belief, I appreciated that the author was able to evoke that kind of response in me as a reader. I also really loved the sweet bond between Tara and her eight-year-old nephew Connor. (His adorable kid-jokes were a hit with my own family too.) While I found the romance sub-plot a bit too quick-moving, it definitely added to the themes of redemption, loyalty, family, and second chances.
This was definitely a slow-burn, and took me a few chapters to get into the story. Once I did, though, I couldn’t put it down!
Given my presuppositions about books designated as literary fiction, I was expecting a certain type of conclusion, and was actually really pleasantly surprised with the ending we got. Lange has done a beautiful job crafting and capturing these characters in a way that feels realistic but hopeful, and I know that this book will stick with me for a long time.
Those who enjoy character-led stories about messy families and second chances
This post contains affiliate links; as an Amazon associate, I earn from qualifying purchases. Advance copy of the book provided courtesy of the publisher, Celadon. All opinions expressed are my own.
About the book:
(From the publisher): When Tara Connelly is released from prison after serving eighteen months on a drug charge, she knows rebuilding her life at thirty years old won’t be easy. With no money and no prospects, she returns home to live with her siblings, who are both busy with their own problems. Her brother, a single dad, struggles with the ongoing effects of a brain injury he sustained years ago, and her sister’s fragile facade of calm and order is cracking under the burden of big secrets. Life becomes even more complicated when the cop who put her in prison keeps showing up unannounced, leaving Tara to wonder what he wants from her now.
While she works to build a new career and hold her family together, Tara finds a chance at love in a most unlikely place. But when the Connellys’ secrets start to unravel and threaten her future, they all must face their worst fears and come clean, or risk losing each other forever.
The Connellys of County Down is a moving novel about testing the bounds of love and loyalty. It explores the possibility of beginning our lives anew, and reveals the pitfalls of shielding each other from the bitter truth.