“The old home town looks the same as I step down from the train,
and there to meet me is my Mama and Papa.” – The Green Green Grass of Home
The Green Road by Anna Enright has been a strange experience, I both loved it and felt indifferent. It follows Rosaleen and her four children, Constance, Dan, Emmett and Hanna from the 80s through the 00s, tracking a character or two per decade. Rosaleen is a difficult and emotional mother, of a similar ilk to Melissa in The Portable Veblen, and each of her children are disaffected in the same way.
“Ardeevin, County Clare, Ireland. 1980. When her oldest brother Dan announces he will enter the priesthood, young Hanna watches her mother howl in agony and retreat to her room. In the years that follow, the Madigan children leave one by one: Dan for the frenzy of New York under the shadow of AIDS; Constance for a hospital in Limerick, where petty antics follow simple tragedy; Emmet for the backlands of Mali, where he learns the fragility of love and order; and Hanna for modern-day Dublin and the trials of her own motherhood. When Christmas Day reunites the children under one roof, each confronts the terrible weight of family ties and the journey that brought them home. The Green Road is a major work of fiction about the battles we wage for family, faith, and love.”
Each of Rosaleen’s children goes through a pattern of both wonderful and scary things happening in their lives, they always crave this extra thing, an extra achievement they’ve not reached at leaves them slightly empty. Somehow none of them managed to make any money and this disappoints Rosaleen the most. Her overbearing personality has created a craving for more in her children, with her fluctuating moods and powerful intellect. While she thinks her children are wonderful, not that she shows it, she feels they’ve neglecting to reach their potential.
By the second half of the novel Rosaleen’s children are once again united under her roof. This was the point I became bored, disinterested in their tempered reunion. Then suddenly, I remembered it was Christmas. This wasn’t an ordinary dinner with the family, I began to cry. Cry for the emotion that comes with family, of being close and so angry at someone so similar but different. You see yourself in your family, you see everything you hate about yourself. No matter how hard you try, you always end up like your parents in some way.
I won’t share more, to save you the ending. The Green Road is a brilliant novel telling the story of family. Anne Enright has created some wonderful characters, so real you think you might meet them if you ever visit County Clare.