Duffy and Son by Damien Owens

Writing.ie | Book Reviews | General Fiction

By Mairéad Hearne (Swirl and Thread)

Duffy and Son by Damien Owens is published with Harper Collins Ireland and is described as ‘a funny and heart-warming novel which celebrates the messiness of ordinary lives’.

For anyone who has had or is having an aging crisis, part of the inspiration behind Duffy and Son will resonate. Damien Owens recently suffered what he jokingly refers to as ‘a terrible trauma’, he hit fifty-years of age. This defining birthday forced him to re-consider the whole business of approaching the more mature years of his life and this is reflected in his latest novel, Duffy and Son. Centred around Eugene Duffy, who is about to turn seventy, and his son Jim, who is about to turn forty, Damien Owens, with plenty of humour highlights the many emotional and physical sides to getting old. I can totally resonate with Damien on this one having myself hit the big 5-0 in 2020. It was a moment of panic as I looked back over my life and looked forward to what was ahead. In that timely tradition of many adults I said ‘where did the time go?’ and began to get a touch maudlin but in Duffy and Son, Damien Owens brings joy and light to the whole prospect of aging, with wonderful characters and just really classic banter that entertains and provides every reader with a much-needed escape from the world we are living in at the moment.

Eugene Duffy reared his two young children when his wife left him. Running a small hardware store in Co. Monaghan, Eugene had accepted his fate and did his very best to provide for his changed and diminished family. Eugene’s early years had been traumatic so he was always adamant that his kids wouldn’t suffer emotionally like he did. His daughter, Eleanor, had married and settled down in Dublin, but his son Jim remained at home with Eugene. Jim had taken over the family business but on a personal level, Eugene was concerned for him. Jim never really had any relationship worth talking about and Eugene is now concerned for Jim’s future, so he puts together a plan, of sorts!

Finding a wife for Jim becomes a project for Eugene, but along the way he makes some discoveries about himself. Has he lived a successful and joyful life? Has he been the best he can be? Was he an inspiration or a disappointment to his children? How would he be remembered? When faced with his own mortality, and after his best friend’s health takes a turn, Eugene has to work through some issues. He never wished for Jim to end up like him, on his own, working in a small town. He always had bigger plans for Jim but as he tries to put a plan of action in place for Jim, he realises that his own life may have taken an unexpected direction from the dreams and ambitions of his own younger years.

The story of aging is not new but Damien Owens has put a fabulously positive spin on how to age gracefully, or disgracefully, whichever way you look at it. The dialogue between Eugene and everyone he comes into contact with is packed full of hilarious comments and witticisms that really provide the reader with plenty of laugh-out-loud moments in every chapter. These are ordinary people living ordinary lives in a small community in rural Ireland and Damien Owens has beautifully imbued them all with a charm and a warmth that leaves the reader wanting more. For anyone who has read and was smitten by Leonard and Hungry Paul by Rónán Hession, I think Duffy and Son would be the perfect read. Damien Owens describes Duffy and Son as a comedy, which it is, but it is also a very thoughtful and, at times, sentimental story with gorgeous characters that will delight and appeal to every reader.

Joyous, warm, sensitive, engaging and, most definitely, very entertaining, Duffy and Son is a book I happily recommend to all. I do really hope you get the opportunity to meet the Duffy boys, you will not regret it!

(c) Mairéad Hearne (Swirl and Thread)

Order your copy online here.

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