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A Swift Pure Cryby Siobhan Dowd
Finaist 2007 — Publishers Weekly Best Children's Book of the Year
Nominee 2008 — ALA Best Books for Young Adults
Synopses & Reviews
After Shell's mother dies, her obsessively religious father descends into alcoholic mourning and Shell is left to care for her younger brother and sister. Her only release from the harshness of everyday life comes from her budding spiritual friendship with a naive young priest, and most importantly, her developing relationship with childhood friend, Declan, who is charming, eloquent, and persuasive. But when Declan suddenly leaves Ireland to seek his fortune in America, Shell finds herself pregnant and the center of a scandal that rocks the small community in which she lives, with repercussions across the whole country. The lives of those immediately around her will never be the same again.
This is a story of love and loss, religious belief and spirituality—it will move the hearts of any who read it.
"This debut from an Irish writer opens with an epigraph from Joyce's Ulysses, setting a high standard that Dowd meets. Set in southern Ireland in 1984 and loosely based on an unsolved crime that rocked the nation, the story begins after the death of Moira Talent, wife of Joe and mother of Shell (short for Michelle), Trix and Jimmy. Joe Talent has buried his grief in a bottle, leaving 15-year-old Shell to run the household. Her father becomes pious after his wife's death, but Shell loses her faith — until young Father Rose joins the parish. She deflects her crush on the priest by taking up with smooth-talking classmate Declan, who gets her pregnant but leaves for America before he knows he's going to be a father. The residents of her claustrophobic rural community avert their eyes as Shell's shape changes, but cannot deny the tragedy that follows. At this point, the tenor of the novel smoothly and inexorably changes from an introspective examination of grief and loss, to a mystery with a thriller's momentum. Dowd's empathy for her characters extends even to Shell's father, a man with 'a black shrivelled walnut for a heart.' It is no small feat to write a story so heavy with foreboding and both deliver on the palpable sense of dread and concoct a hopeful yet realistic ending. Dowd achieves this in her beautifully realized account of one girl's loss of innocence, and her resilient recovery. Ages 14-up." Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Readers are introduced to an amazing young woman who, despite all odds, finds the strength to overcome a growing scandal that has the potential to disrupt the peaceful order of her small church and town." School Library Journal
"Dowd evokes her setting impressively, and she realizes her characters with a sensitivity that is, at times, breathtaking. Not always easy to read, but well worth it." Booklist
Set in Ireland in 1984, this novel tells a story of a pregnant teenage girl who is left to care for her younger siblings following the death of their mother and their father's descent into an alcoholic depression.
About the Author
Siobhan Dowd was named one of the top 100 Irish Americans by Irish-America Magazine and AerLingus for her global anti-censorship work with the writers' organization PEN. A Swift Pure Cry is her first novel. She lives in Oxford, England.
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