Sunday, February 21, 2016
Philomena has three children, two daughters, of whom we learn little, and a much beloved son, Jimmy. When Our Woman discovers Jimmy engaged in a sexual act with a neighbour boy it evokes a curiosity in her that becomes an obsession.
She is a farmer’s wife “trained for marriage and funeral and weeding and shifting and turning, not wondering” until she is blindsided by her withdrawn husband's affair with a woman she dubs Red the Twit. Philomena reaches a tipping point and embarks on a journey of sexual exploration, trying to make sense of all the malarky. She has a pathetic escapade in a hotel room with an overweight card salesman. She then moves on to Halim, a Syrian security guard, who balks when she attempts to reenact the sex acts she witnessed her son engaged in.
Oh, and by the way husband and son are both dead and Philomena is seeing a grief counsellor. When she reveals her fantasies about naked men the grief counsellor advises her to immerse herself in domestic duties to take her mind off it all. That doesn't work. Our Woman is stark raving mad.
Malarky is a dark novel but welcome comic relief is injected here and there by Philomena's long-in-the-tooth gang of girlfriends. Watching someone become unhinged is harrowing so, at just over 200 pages, it is just long enough.