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Book Reviews   |    
All Will Be Well: A Memoir
Reviewed by Nancy Byatt
Psychiatric Services 2006; doi:
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by John McGahern; New York, Alfred A. Knopf, 2006, 289 pages, $25.00

Dr. Byatt is a psychiatry resident at the University of Massachusetts Medical School in Worcester.

John McGahern writes an illuminating memoir that brims with details of his youth in the Irish countryside. The eldest of seven children growing up in the Iron Mountains of Ireland, McGahern lives in a small bungalow outside the village of Ballinamore in County Leitrum. His father, a police sergeant who sporadically visits in his blue Ford, lives 20 miles away at the police barracks. While growing up, McGahern is reassured by his mother, a teacher and independent woman who provides him with her warm and gentle love. His mother easily wins his affection while his father, an unstable character, continually pushes him away. While still a boy, at the age of nine, McGahern is struck with grief upon his mother's tragic death from breast cancer. Once comforted by his mother's selflessness, he is now forced to live under his father's brutality. The reader is drawn into McGahern's early years as he and his siblings struggle with their father's tyrannical rule.

McGahern and his siblings are sustained by the memory and love of their mother. While his mother is alive, he feels "safe in her shadow." Now that she is gone, he experiences a posthumous security from her memory. Strengthened by his mother's love, McGahern is able to break free of his father's rule and takes himself increasingly far from home. McGahern traces the start of his life as a writer, and the search eventually takes him back to the untouched land in which he grew up.

The author allows us to catch the subtle beauty of Ireland's countryside and its inhabitants with his description of its quiet fields and roads. The reader becomes intimately familiar with the fields, villages, and bogs of the west of Ireland and the plainness of the people who live there.

All Will Be Well has general reader appeal and is of particular interest to mental health care professionals as it poignantly presents insight into the daily routines that shape McGahern's life and work. McGahern delivers a compassionate and vivid portrayal of his life, almost to the present. As we glimpse the author's suffering, we are moved by this compelling personal testimony that chronicles his life.

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