This Is How

M. J. Hyland

This Is How
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This Is How

M. J. Hyland

When his fiancee breaks off their engagement, Patrick Oxtoby leaves home and moves to a boarding house in a seaside town. But in spite of his hopes and determination to build a better life, nothing goes to plan and Patrick is soon driven to take a desperate and chilling course of action. This is How is a mesmerising and meticulously drawn portrait of a man whose unease in the world leads to his tragic undoing. Written with breathtaking wisdom and an astute insight into the human mind, M.J. Hyland’s new book is a masterpiece that inspires horror and sympathy in equal measure.

Review

When coming of age goes terribly, terribly wrong. This is the quickest way to summarise the plot of this novel without giving too much away. There is a twist of sorts about one third in that is best left for the reader to discover – and hopefully other reviewers will not ruin this experience for you. I won’t. Suffice to say that Patrick, an outsider (yes, very much in the Camus sense) leaves home in an effort to set an independent course for his own life, only to practically destroy it in a single act.

Written in the first-person, Hyland begins by describing the minutiae of daily life in small-town Ireland, only to then tackle the big themes – justice, responsibility, morality, salvation – the list is as long as you want it to be. More importantly for me, there is a delicate emotional line that runs through – we somehow grow to care for this awkward, flawed protagonist, even when we perhaps should not. This is especially important since Hyland infuses the novel with a feeling of dread and perhaps if we didn’t care, we would not go on. As we watch Patrick fail badly, we learn that there is a distinction between a person and their deeds, the internal life of a person and the actions it motivates.

Highly recommended for those who enjoy moody, thoughtful fiction – it certainly stayed with me.

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