Red Sky in Morning

Mysterious Book Report No. 147

by John Dwaine McKenna

There’s an old Irish joke Michael Curley told me a number of years ago that goes like this:  How can you tell when an Irishman is losing his mind?  He forgets who he has grudges against!  It’s a joke that’s all the funnier because there’s an element of truth to it.  The Irish are known far and wide as a fighting race and belligerence seems like part of their genetic makeup.

Red Sky in Morning, (Little, Brown and Company, $25.00, 275 pages, ISBN 978-0-316-23025-4) by Paul Lynch is a novel of crime and retribution, written in a prose style so unique and lyrical it could almost be called poetry.  It’s a debut novel by a young Irish writer with the ability to illuminate some of humankind’s basest emotions in a way that makes the reader look long and hard into their own psyche, assessing their own personal values.  It is a novel “straight out of Irelands nineteenth century torment,” and a graphic illustration of Irish oppression at the hands of their English landlords.

The tale begins in Donegal, Ireland in the year 1832.  A young tenant farmer named Coll Coyle is being evicted, along with his pregnant wife and their three year old daughter, from the only home they’ve ever known, on the drunken whim of the land owner’s son.  When Coyle tries to resolve the situation however, he comes away a felon with blood on his hands.  Running for his life, he’s pursued by John Faller, the overseer of the Hamilton lands.  Faller is an expert tracker, a huge strong man, bent on making the penniless Coyle pay in blood.  The chase crosses Ireland and leads to America, where Coyle has found construction work, on the Pennsylvania Railroad, which was in the process of being built.  Red Skin in Morning is a story of crime, escape and the lengths some would go to to seek retribution.  It is a novel you will remember long after you’ve finished the reading of . . . so you will.

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