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Solace

Solace

A Novel

  • reading group guide
Belinda McKeon’s Solace is an extraordinarily accomplished first novel—a story of a father and son thrown together by tragedy; one clinging to the old country and one plunging into the new. Set in an Ireland that catapulted into wealth at the end of the twentieth century and then suffered a swift economic decline, this is a novel about the conflicting values of the old and young generations and the stubborn, heartbreaking habits that mute the language of love.

Tom and Mark Casey are a father and son on a collision course, two men who have always struggled to be at ease with each other. Tom is a farmer in the Irish midlands, the descendant of men who have farmed the same land for generations. Mark, his only son, is a doctoral student in Dublin, writing his dissertation on the nineteenth-century novelist Maria Edgeworth, who spent her life on her family’s estate, not far from the Casey farm. To his father, who needs help baling the hay and ploughing the fields, Mark’s academic pursuit is not man’s work at all, the occupation of a schoolboy. Mark’s mother negotiates a fragile peace.

Then, at a party in Dublin, Mark meets Joanne Lynch, a lawyer in training whom he finds irresistible. She also happens to be the daughter of a man who once spectacularly wronged Mark’s father, and whose betrayal Tom has remembered every single day for twenty years.

After the lightning strike of devastating loss, Tom and Mark are left with grief neither can share or fully acknowledge. Not even the magnitude of their mutual loss can alter the habit of silence. Solace is a beautiful and moving novel by one of the most exciting new writers to emerge from Ireland.
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  • Scribner | 
  • 336 pages | 
  • ISBN 9781451614251 | 
  • May 2011
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Belinda McKeon Talks About SOLACE

Belinda McKeon looks at the conflicting values of two generations during Ireland's economic decline.

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Reading Group Guide

This reading group guide for Solace enhancing your book club, and a Q&A with author Belinda McKeon. The suggested questions are intended to help your reading group find new and interesting angles and topics for your discussion. We hope that these ideas will enrich your conversation and increase your enjoyment of the book.

INTRODUCTION

With his graduate thesis at a standstill, an overbearing father who wishes he would leave Dublin and return to the family farm, and a diplomatic mother trying to keep both men happy, Mark Casey has decisions to make and no idea how to make them. Faced with the conflicting desires to forge a life of his own while also embracing the life his parents have set out for him, Mark is buckling under the pressure.

As his personal life reaches a crisis point, a chance meeting with a beautiful young woman points Mark’s life in a new direction. Joanne Lynch is from the same hometown as Mark and understands the constraints of familial obligation—she has a mother she doesn’t speak to and a recently deceased father from whom she was estranged. When Joanne finds herself accidentallyy pregnant, life takes over for the young couple and Mark’s relationship to his father and to questions of inheritance and responsibility grow more complicated still. But when tragedy strikes, Tom and Mark are thrown together by grief and must rediscover the meaning of family.

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About the Author

Belinda McKeon
Photograph © Hiroki Kobayashi

Belinda McKeon

Belinda McKeon, an award-winning playwright and journalist, was born in Ireland in 1979 and grew up on her parents' farm. She studied literature at Trinity College, Dublin, and worked as an arts writer for The Irish Times. McKeon has an MFA in creative writing from Columbia and lives in Brooklyn with her husband.

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