This one -- Our Lady of Greenwich Village, by Dermot McEvoy -- started off strong, but got considerably weaker when it veered off from politics into a rather mundane romance.
I had fairly high hopes. After a somewhat-confusing first chapter or so (too many characters introduced too quickly to keep them all straight, at least at first), the story line and McEvoy's writing became very funny. I love me some New York stories, and enjoy a good political satire, and this book offers both. It opens in 2000, with journalist Benedict "Cyclops" O'Reilly (so named because he lost an eye in Vietnam) getting a tip that Republican congressman and family-values champion Jackie Swift has been hospitalized at St. Vincent's under suspicious circumstances. In truth, Swift suffered a heart attack in the midst of a cocaine-fueled tryst with his chief of staff ... but needless to say, his press secretary isn't eager to have this get out. To cover up, the secretary claims that Swift collapsed after receiving a very long distance visitor: the Virgin Mary, who's urging him to be a champion for the anti-abortion movement.
The patrons of Hogan's Moat, the bar of choice for the Irish literati and/or politicoes of Greenwich Village, respond with disbelief and profanity. Among them are Cyclops O'Reilly and Wolfe Tone O'Rourke -- long-time buddy of O'Reilly's, legendary political consultant, and our hero. However, the "Virgin Mary appears to Swift" story takes on a life of its own when it's seized on by Cardinal Declan Sweeney. Against the advice of his top staffer, Monsignor Sean Pius "Johnny Pie" Burke (who just happens to be Cyclops O'Reilly's cousin), Sweeney joins with some strange bedfellows -- Operation Free Fetus/ God's Scout's director Cockburn, and the mysterious Rev. Dr. Costello -- to decry abortion and endorse Swift. Somewhere along the line, O'Rourke gets fed up, and decides to run for Congress himself against Swift.
Up till now, and even afterwards, this part of the story is pretty good. The madcap adventures of pedophile priests, Machiavellian politicians, and jaded journalists are funny without being hackneyed, and there are more than enough bad guys getting their just desserts to make it juicy and satisfying.
Where the book falls short, though, is in trying to overlay a love story onto the political one. I suspected from the get-go that O'Rourke's beautiful young assistant, Simone "Sam" McGuire, would double as a love interest, but hoped I was wrong. I wasn't, and frankly, this piece of the story does seem both trite and not-quite-believeable. It's no secret that I have little patience for the "much older man recaptures his lost youth with beautiful younger woman" story line, which has been done to death ... and McEvoy doesn't even do it particularly well. Long-unresolved sexual tension? Sure, I'd buy that ... but when it comes to a character as smart and no-nonsense as Sam suddenly morphing from rising political star to perfect girlfriend, I need a lot more convincing. Likewise, O'Rourke's eventual escape to Ireland in search of his roots both comes out of nowhere, and adds little in terms of plot or character development when it comes up.
All in all, an OK read with some entertaining parts ... but not one I'd go back to, or feel the need to own.
- Ithaca, New York
- MWF, now officially 42, loves long walks on the beach and laughing with friends ... oh, wait. By day, I'm a mid-level university administrator reluctant to be more specific on a public forum. Nights and weekends, though, I'm a homebody with strong nerdist leanings. I'm never happier than when I'm chatting around the fire, playing board games, cooking up some pasta, and/or road-tripping with my family and friends. I studied psychology and then labor economics in school, and I work in higher education. From time to time I get smug, obsessive, or just plain boring about some combination of these topics, especially when inequality, parenting, or consumer culture are involved. You have been warned.