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From a Low and Quiet Sea
Cover of From a Low and Quiet Sea
From a Low and Quiet Sea
A Novel
SHORTLISTED FOR THE COSTA BOOK AWARD
A moving novel of three men, each searching for something they have lost, from the award-winning and Man Booker nominated author Donal Ryan.

For Farouk, family is all. He has protected his wife and daughter as best he can from the war and hatred that has torn Syria apart. If they stay, they will lose their freedom, will become lesser persons. If they flee, they will lose all they have known of home, for some intangible dream of refuge in some faraway land across the merciless sea.
Lampy is distracted; he has too much going on in his small town life in Ireland. He has the city girl for a bit of fun, but she's not Chloe, and Chloe took his heart away when she left him. There's the secret his mother will never tell him. His granddad's little sniping jokes are getting on his wick. And on top of all that, he has a bus to drive; those old folks from the home can't wait all day.
The game was always the lifeblood coursing through John's veins: manipulating people for his enjoyment, or his enrichment, or his spite. But it was never enough. The ghost of his beloved brother, and the bitter disappointment of his father, have shadowed him all his life. But now that lifeblood is slowing down, and he's not sure if God will listen to his pleas for forgiveness. Three men, searching for some version of home, their lives moving inexorably towards a reckoning that will draw them all together.
SHORTLISTED FOR THE COSTA BOOK AWARD
A moving novel of three men, each searching for something they have lost, from the award-winning and Man Booker nominated author Donal Ryan.

For Farouk, family is all. He has protected his wife and daughter as best he can from the war and hatred that has torn Syria apart. If they stay, they will lose their freedom, will become lesser persons. If they flee, they will lose all they have known of home, for some intangible dream of refuge in some faraway land across the merciless sea.
Lampy is distracted; he has too much going on in his small town life in Ireland. He has the city girl for a bit of fun, but she's not Chloe, and Chloe took his heart away when she left him. There's the secret his mother will never tell him. His granddad's little sniping jokes are getting on his wick. And on top of all that, he has a bus to drive; those old folks from the home can't wait all day.
The game was always the lifeblood coursing through John's veins: manipulating people for his enjoyment, or his enrichment, or his spite. But it was never enough. The ghost of his beloved brother, and the bitter disappointment of his father, have shadowed him all his life. But now that lifeblood is slowing down, and he's not sure if God will listen to his pleas for forgiveness. Three men, searching for some version of home, their lives moving inexorably towards a reckoning that will draw them all together.
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  • From the book

    Let me tell you something about trees. They speak to each other. Just think what they must say. What could a tree have to say to a tree? Lots and lots. I bet they could talk for ever. Some of them live for centuries. The things they must see, that must happen around them, the things they must hear. They speak to each other through tunnels that extend from their roots, opened in the earth by fungus, sending their messages cell by cell, with a patience that could only be possessed by a living thing that cannot move. It would be like me telling you a story by saying one word each day. At breakfast I would say it, the word of the story, then I'd kiss you and I'd go to work and you'd go to school and all you'd have of the story is that single word each day and I would give no more until the next day, no matter how you begged. You'll have to have the patience of a tree, I'd say. Can you imagine how that would be? If a tree is starving, its neighbours will send it food. No one really knows how this can be, but it is. Nutrients will travel in the tunnel made of fungus from the roots of a healthy tree to its starving neighbour, even one of a different species. Trees live, like you and me, long lives, and they know things. They know the rule, the only one that's real and must be kept. What's the rule? You know. I've told you lots of times before. Be kind. Now sleep, my love, tomorrow will be long.

    He stopped on the short landing and watched her through the cracked door, shifting in her sheets to find the most comfortable way of lying. He could hear gunfire from the east,

    beyond the town, short of the front line, and he wondered if the

    shots were being fired in celebration, or in anger, or in tribute to some fallen warrior. He wondered if his daughter believed his lie - that the gunfire was the noise of a great machine that was being used to frighten birds away from crops. It was for the birds' own good, he'd told her: they'd gorge themselves till they were sick if they were let. He could hear her whispering to herself, or to her teddies and her dolls, ranged along the bed's edge, questioning: Could that be true, what Daddy said? That trees can talk to other trees? It must be true, or else he wouldn't have told me. I don't know if I'll tell my friends. Maybe I'll just keep it for me and all of you, and we can think about it just ourselves, and dream about it, maybe. Well, goodnight, babies. And she whispered each of their names in turn, and settled in the semi-dark, and there were only the sounds of the cicadas, and her breaths, and in the far distance another series of crackling bursts, like dry leaves underfoot fragmenting to dust. And the memory stung him again, so sharply this time that he almost sighed aloud, of how he'd hoped and prayed to God that she'd be born a boy. The moon was visible in the skylight above the landing and the stairs were drenched in its sickly light, and he felt a sudden hatred for it, the dead thing that circled one-faced and tide-locked above the earth, feeling nothing.

    Martha was sitting at the dining table, her forearms extended along its heavy wooden top, her fingers stretched, a mug before her, her face tilted towards the steam that wisped from it, her eyes closed. He thought of how she'd sat in just that spot weeks before and spoken animatedly to a strange and dangerous man, how she'd smiled at him and laughed at things he said, a laugh calculated to please the man, to reassure him she was well disposed towards him, that she

    believed the things he said, the reasons he gave for doing what he did. Farouk had watched their interaction through the garden window as he'd smoked with the man's companion, a...

Reviews-
  • Library Journal

    February 15, 2018

    A Man Booker and Desmond Elliott prize long-listee who's won multiple Irish literary awards, Ryan deserves attention. Here, three unsettled men look for what they've lost: restless Lampy misses the girl who got away, wheeler-dealer John has crumpled under the weight of his father's disapproval and brother's death, and Farouk has fled Syria with his wife and daughter, choosing uncertainty over debasement or death.

    Copyright 2018 Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

  • Kirkus

    May 15, 2018
    A quiet novel involving subtle studies of character, both Irish (not surprising) and Syrian (rather more surprising).The first part of the novel focuses on Farouk, who, with his wife and daughter, is caught up in the war in Syria. Farouk is a doctor and feels he should stay in his war-ravaged country. The crucifixion of a young boy as a spy is the tipping point for his wife, however, so Farouk arranges to escape with his family, but they are double-crossed by the trafficker and stranded on a boat. In the chaos of a storm, lives are lost, and Farouk finds himself in a camp separated from his wife and daughter, not knowing whether they survived. The second part of the book focuses on the romantic entanglements of Lampy Shanley, who drives a bus for an orthopedic hospital, though he spends much of his time mentally preoccupied with and lamenting the loss of Chloe, his one great love. The third section introduces us to John and is in the form of a religious confession. This is his first "honest confession," he tells us, and it's a doozy, involving the premature death of his brother Edward--their father's favorite son--and John's inability to live up to his father's expectations. Instead, he goes the other way and begins a systematic course of sinning. John admits to his darker side when, as part of his confession, he says, "I always had a fiendish knack for making people hate each other." The final, brief section of the novel makes an attempt, not altogether successful, to provide some unity to the previous three parts, for it at least references all three of the major characters.Ultimately, this is a novel that is long on character development but lacking a center.

    COPYRIGHT(2018) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

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A Novel
Donal Ryan
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