The Last Days of Joy by Anne Tiernan

Writing.ie | Book Reviews | General Fiction
The Last Days of Joy by Anne Tiernan

By Mairéad Hearne (Swirl and Thread)

The Last Days of Joy by Anne Tiernan

The Last Days of Joy by Anne Tiernan publishes with Hachette Ireland March 30th and has been described by Kathleen Mac Mahon as ‘a brave and profoundly honest book, written with dark humour’.

The Tobin family consists of three children, their mother, and an absent father. Now grown adults, Conor, Frances and Sinead have all lived their lives under the shadow of their mother, Joy, who was a difficult presence to be in the company of. Growing up in New Zealand, after a drastic move from Ireland, all three dreaded returning from school as they never knew which version of Joy would be waiting for them. It was clear to them all that their mother was different from their friends’ mothers. Joy was an alcoholic and each day of their lives was dependent on how Joy would spend hers.

One day they receive a call that will change their lives forever. Joy is in hospital, hooked up to life support and her outlook is not a good one. Conor, Francis and Sinead gather at the hospital and over the course of a few weeks we are given insights into their lives and the respective paths they chose. During this time, snippets about Joy’s past begin to reveal themselves and the siblings must all face the truth in order to move on with their lives.

Conor, the eldest, is a very successful business man. He works in philanthropy but his life is veering a little off course. Conor is social media fodder, due to his very public profile and he unexpectedly finds himself in a very uncompromising situation that proves too much for him. Conor has always wanted recognition and he never really doubted his role working in charity at a very high level. He works hard and plays hard, viewing his platform as the right method to steer his business. As the older brother he grew up protective of his younger sisters but now, with Joy near death, it’s his turn to look for help in negotiating his way back to being the person he would like to be.

Frances is the middle child and has always felt the pressure to be perfect. She is married, has one daughter and is involved in all the ‘right’ social committees. Frances keeps herself tucked away inside a shell, a self-created barrier that prevents her from getting hurt. But, with Joy now very ill, the shell is starting to crack. Frances has always believed that she has been a good wife, a good mother and, of the three, she is the one who stayed near Joy as the years passed, keeping an eye out for their mother. But Frances is now beginning to feel constrained and confused. As she peels back the layers, she feels herself changing a little but this change is not necessarily the best for all involved, as the consequences of her actions become clear to her.

Sinead, the youngest child, is a free spirit. She left New Zealand and returned to Ireland, where the family’s story began. Sinead finds the Irish culture and weather more suitable to her personality, and it also provides the distance she craves from her mother and siblings. Sinead is a writer, with one successful book under her belt. But Sinead is suffering from writer’s block, struggling to put together any outline for her next book. Sinead lives a bohemian and single life in Dublin, mixing with literary types and teaching yoga classes to pay the bills. In reality Sinead is escaping herself and, this trip back home to New Zealand, might just provide the much-needed catalyst for change.

The Last Days of Joy is a searingly painful and heart-breaking tale of a dysfunctional family trying to figure out where and how it all went terribly wrong. Joy was a troubled individual who struggled to live. She placed little value on herself and this inability to love herself was reflected back at her children. Joy strived to put one foot in front of the other on a daily basis but there were times that it all just proved to be too much.

A remarkable debut, The Last Days of Joy is a tale that emanates with sadness yet at the same time is injected with an underlying humour, all expressed in the most graceful manner through the words of Anne Tiernan. The pages of this book are filled with sharply depicted characters in complicated relationships that ask you to invest your time with them…and you do, willingly. A very arresting novel, The Last Days of Joy, is a beautiful debut, full of authenticity and hope, one that will stay with any reader long after that final page is turned.

The Last Days of Joy by Anne Tiernan“I feel privileged to be able to share this story and while it owes its origins to my own personal experience, I hope that it will resonate with readers”
– Anne Tiernan

(c) Mairéad Hearne (Swirl and Thread)

Order your copy online here.

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