In the winter of 1951, a storyteller, the last practitioner of an honored, centuries-old tradition, arrives at the home of nine-year-old Ronan O'Mara in the Irish countryside. For three wonderful evenings, the old gentleman enthralls his assembled local audience with narratives of foolish kings, fabled saints, and Ireland's enduring accomplishments before moving on. But these nights change young Ronan forever, setting him on a years-long pursuit of the elusive, itinerant storyteller and the glorious tales that are no less than the saga of his tenacious and extraordinary isle.
The stories of Irish history are familiar but still stirring, and Delaney brings a fresh perspective and a depth of understanding to the telling. His detailed grasp of Irish history lends weight and authority to this long, discursive tale. At the same time, his familiarity with every aspect -- social, cultural and economic -- of Irish society, his empathetic rendering of a varied cast of real and imagined characters, and his ability to convey the intricate beauty of the Irish countryside enrich the narrative at every turn. Mostly, though, the novel draws its power from Delaney's conviction that stories matter, giving shape and meaning to our otherwise fractured personal -- and national -- histories. The troubled history of Ireland makes a particularly memorable story. Delaney tells it very well indeed.