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Hood A tale of grief and lust frustration and hilarity death and familyPenelope O’Grady and Cara Wall are risking disaster when like teenagers in any intolerant time and place—here a Dublin convent school in the late 1970s—they fall in love Yet Cara the free spirit and Pen the stoic craft a bond so strong it seems as though nothing could sever it not the bickering not the secrets not even Cara’s infidelitiesBut thirteen years on a car crash kills Cara and rips the lid off Pen’s world Pen is still in the closet teaching at her old school living under the roof of Cara’s gentle father who thinks of her as his daughter’s friend How can she survive widowhood without even daring to claim the word Over the course of one surreal week of bereavement she is battered by memories that range from the humiliating to the exalted to the erotic to the funny It will take Pen all her intelligence and wit to sort through her tumultuous past with Cara and all the nerve she can muster to start remaking her life This is a book about grief Nothing else simply grief which is never simple and we all feel it at some point One of the few guarantees in life is that if you live long enough you will lose someone close to youThe “Hood” of the title refers to the suffix we add to certain nouns to turn them into states of being; motherhood fatherhood widowhood neighborhood brotherhood and sisterhood to name a few Pen our narrator is the left behind lover of Cara who dies off page unexpectedly in a taxi crash coming home from the airport after a trip I always think death during or at the end of a vacation is doubly sad Those you’ve left behind said goodbye yes but it was the temporary “have fun I’ll miss you wish I was coming” sort of goodbye They’ve had the idea of welcoming you back to keep them going and it’s been snatchedPen and Cara live with Cara’s father who is seemingly oblivious to their true relationship He thinks they are best mates No one in either young ladies' family knows that the two are actually lovers and that seems even tragic Pen who is a widow in every sense of the word cannot wear the widowhood weeds She is unable to grieve in a way appropriate for a lost lover This not only intensifies her grief over the week that we are with her but also undermines her sense of self This book touched my heart Donoghue has such a way of conveying feeling that oozes from the page She isn’t maudlin or purple in her prose and yet the feelings are still heavy and made me stop reading and just look across the grass and count my blessings occasionally Pen’s grief made me so very aware of the possibility of my ownMy favorite line was “My eyes dawdled across the missalette I had never noticed before that the official title of the ‘Lord have mercy’ prayer was the gracious phrase ‘Invitation to Sorrow’ Hey there Sorrow how’ve you been keeping? Come on in If your bike doesn’t have lights you can always crash on our sofa tonight Oh so you’ll be staying a while Sorrow? Planning to get to know me better? Grand so There’s tea in the pot All”It just slayed me That’s the acceptance stage of grief on a page Brilliant This might be the best written book I've read certainly in a long while Still it might not be for everyone It's about grief and I'm a sucker for a good grief story It tells a week in the life of Pen Penelope after the death of her lover Cara Set in 1992 and looking back from there in Dublin I couldn't help but wonder had Cara survived might their relationship be recognized today Pen is a closeted teacher at a Catholic girls' school so there are layers and layers to her story Cara is a free spirit but also closeted to her family Their complex relationship is told as flashbacks and interestingly the present is written in past tense and the flashbacks in present tense Clever and I was never confused except that the book begins with what turns out to be a flashback so I had a bit of trouble figuring out where we were beginning I also liked that Pen is fat It's not a big part of the story no pun intended but is mentioned occasionally and fittingly There's a whole cast of 3D characters Even the cat is interesting There's nothing extraordinary about Pen She's no mythical superhero like Aud I think that helps her story to pierce so deeply I talked about a lack of attachment for the characters in Wicked Here I didn't so much identify with Pen I became her Her story felt like it was happening to me Remarkable For me this was flawlessly told I had never noticed before that the official title of the ‘Lord have mercy’ prayer was the gracious phrase ‘Invitation to Sorrow’ Hey there Sorrow how’ve you been keeping? Come on in If your bike doesn’t have lights you can always crash on our sofa tonight Oh so you’ll be staying a while Sorrow? Planning to get to know me better? Grand so There’s tea in the pot Hood is my third foray into the works of Emma Donoghue Neither of my two previous attempts to engage with her writing have been what I would call successful It's not that her books did not make an impression on me it's just that the impression I got from her writing strongly reminded of a caricature character of a feminist pop singer in Father Ted The reason I still read Hood was because I accidentally downloaded it onto the kindle Oh well To my surprise Hood I actually was uite an interesting story of the closeted relationship between Pen and Cara set in Dublin during the early 1990s I will not come as much of a spoiler if I say that the book deals with Pen's coming to terms with the end of this relationship and in the process finding herself In a lot of ways Hood reminded me of Greene's The End of the Affair and I was wondering a couple of times if Greene's classic had had any influence on Hood In hindsight I doubt there was an influence tho Where Greene's story focuses on a character who is obsessed with himself and projects this on his lost lover Hood's story begins with a story of Pen's obsession with Cara and materialises into Pen finding confidence in herself by having to interact with the world around her as an individual rather than as part of a couple There were a couple of aspects that I thought were great to read in addition of Pen's story One was the description of Pen's and Cara's relationship in the context of Ireland in the early 1990s in which the presence of the Catholic Church seemed to be ubiuitous which did not help my trying to shake off the Father Ted impression I haveDonoghue's description of people being on their guard in public and fearing for their jobs if they lived outwardly in same sex relationships created an atmosphere of pretty tense isolation What seemed like hundreds of strangers were clustered by the door to commiserate with Mr Wall as we struggled out He was introducing Kate to many who would remember her only as the dark girl the one who went off to the States with her mother and never came back I held back not wanting to hear him fumble for a title for me By the end of the book however I was not sure whether this description was a representation of the times or whether it was used as a plot device Without going into detail the end of the book seemed to indicate that some of the isolation may have existed in Pen's perception than in the community around her But then Pen's reality is her perception isn't it The second aspect that I found interesting was the way in which Pen's perception changes Again without spoiling the plot Pen's grieving process was pretty realistic It was both funny and sad to see her go through it ‘It’s a very long story’ The words glided out of my mouth surprising me ‘I’ll tell you when the tea’s made’ This birth is long overdue mother It’ll be a tight sueeze You’d better open your arms to this screaming red bundle because it’s the only one I’ll ever bring you ‘Grand’ she said ‘I’ll open a packet of biscuits’ While all of this was fascinating I still can only say that as a whole I liked the book But just that Despite the setting and the character development there were also aspects I really did not care for The first one was that despite the strong background setting I never got the feeling that the novel rose to a level of literary excellence While reading I always had the feeling that I accidentally picked up a clumsily written installment of a steamy pulp romance series This didn't work for me I should clarify that there is nothing amiss with a steamy pulp romance but it was not what I was looking for in Hood What annoyed me about this than the clumsy writing tho was that it distracted from the issues that had been touched on and that could have been elaborated on like the relationship with Pen's mother or Mr Wall or KateBut no instead Pen suddenly and seemingly out of nowhere obsesses about someone she only just met view spoiler Cara's sister hide spoiler I’m late coming to this second book of Emma Donoghue’s and am delighted to have found it Pen’s partner Cara dies in a car crash on her way back from the airport She has been on a holiday with friends without Pen Pen is left bereaved the unacknowledged partnerlover of another woman In the days before the funeral Pen recounts her 13 years with Cara a relationship that began at school In those years they do have months apart but Cara always returns It is a truthful if flawed relationship of love sex devotion tumult forgiveness and reconciliation and a curious fidelity on Cara’s partPen is faithful comes over as almost motherly Cara is odd uniue flighty and irresistible For the last four years they have lived with Cara’s father appropriately named Mr Wall a distantly loving man It is left to the reader to work out if he knows about the girls’ relationshipCara’s sister Kate arrives from the US where she has lived since the age of 16 with her mother Pen knew her at school and old feelings for her are re awakened I worried about the ending but didn’t need to There are also some moments of wry humour Kate is a little too lightly drawn as is Mr Wall Despite these minor uibbles Donoghue’s language is a joy I read her words as I listen to a piece of music A brilliant insightful sensitive writer

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