by Damian McNicholl
This is a gentle story narrated by young Gabriel Harkin, the son of the title, who lives in Northern Ireland during the 1960s and 70s. A young boy in 1964 when the novel begins, his story is one of growing up during the time of the "troubles" which provide a subtle background for his personal experience of dealing with his own homosexuality. He does well enough in school, but is not a scholar, and from the beginning he does not fit in either at school or at home. The novel traces his gradual discovery of why this is, and his homosexuality is only one of the reasons. How he deals with his growing awareness of his sexuality is one source of suspense in the story. At the same time his family gradually prospers financially even as the violence of the "troubles" grows ever more menacing in the background. This novel is quiet and understated, but it has just the right tone for the story. There is additional suspense primarily due to a subplot regarding Gabriel's Uncle Brendan who is away from home at the beginning of the story. He returns and the result of that event along with the growing political clamor provides sufficient action to keep the reader interested until Gabriel's story comes to its climactic close.
A Son Called Gabriel: A Novel by Damian McNicholl. CDS Books, New York. 2004