Synopses & Reviews
A sleeper hit when first published in 1986, Jeannette Haien's exquisite, beloved first novel is a deceptively simple story that has the power and resonance of myth. The story begins on a rainy morning as Father Declan de Loughry stands fishing in an Irish salmon stream, pondering the recent deathbed confession of one of his parishioners. Kevin Dennehy and his wife, Enda, have been sweetly living a lie for some 50 years, a lie the full extent of which Father Declan learns only when Enda finally confides "the all of it." Her tale of suffering mesmerizes the priest, who recognizes that it is also a tale of sin and scandal, a transgression he cannot ignore. The resolution of his dilemma is a triumph of strength and empathy that, as Benedict Kiely has said, makes The All of It "a book to remember."
"One of the year's finest novels, a moral story of the most complex sort." Peter Prescott, Newsweek
"Within this brief, artfully woven novel are two stories. Kevin and Enda have escaped from their mad father and found refuge in a tiny Irish village, where they live as man and wife. Fifty years later, Kevin's death impels Enda to confess to Father Declan, a world-weary priest who finds his escape in salmon fishing. The moral commitment of the couple, and their devotion to freedom and the natural life, remain in the priest's mind as he struggles through the intricacies of netting a salmon. Haien, an American pianist, entirely captures both the essence of life in the rural west of Ireland and the many shadings of the conflict between official morality and the private compromises we must make to live out our lives. A compact, lyrical gem; one wishes it were longer. Highly recommended." Library Journal
About the Author
Jeannette Haien is the author of the acclaimed novel The All of It , winner of the Sue Kaufman Prize for First Fiction from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. In addition to her career as a writer, Jeannette Haien is well known as a concert pianist and teacher. She and her husband, a lawyer, live in New York City and Connemara, Ireland.
Reading Group Guide
"The All of It is an exquisitely told story of sin and understanding. As a frustrated Father Declan de Loughry fishes for salmon in inclement Irish weather, he mulls over the events of the previous days. Four days ago, while performing the last rites on a dying husband, he learned that the couple was never married and, in fact, are brother and sister. In a breathless retelling, Enda, the sister, recounts their terribly abusive childhood at the hands of their drunken, widowed father. As Enda relates the gripping events surrounding her and her brother's act of incest, Father Declan finds himself mesmerized by both the tale and the teller. While Father Declan struggles with an unyielding river, he must negotiate between his priestly condemnation of incest and his own heart's desires toward Enda.
Topics for Discussion
1. Jeannette Haien frames Enda's " confession" with the story of Father Declan's day of fishing at the river. How does this framing device mirror, or contrast with, Enda's story? Father Declan tells Enda, " you've netted me with your telling." What analogies might be drawn between his struggles with an unruly river and her attempts at making him understand her past choices?
2. Enda goes to great lengths to insist that her retelling of her and her brother's youth does not constitute a confession. Why is she so insistent? Why might she not want to tell Father Declan her history in a confessional? Why does she persist in referring to Father Declan as her friend and not her priest?
3. Haien paints a very vivid picture of the weather. What role does the Irish climate play in both Enda's recounting and Father Declan's fishing trip?
4.Father Declan's opinion of both Enda and her past changes radically through the course of the novel. Did your opinion likewise change? What were some of the factors that contributed to your reassessment?
5. How does Haien use Enda's present day anguish to heighten the drama of her storytelling? What effect does Father Declan's rapt listening have on your own enjoyment of Enda's story?