Long Time, No See

Dermot Healy

First Sentence: I headed down the townland of Ballintra in a force 8 to light the fire towards the beginning of August.

Another novel set in the West of Ireland and published in 2011 here. This time Mr Psyche’s your man and Ballintra’s the place. The year is 2003 and Mister Psyche (or Philip as he’s not known) has just left school. With lots of time on his hands he spends a good deal of it visiting his Uncle Joe-Joe who likes nothing better than drinking Malibu with his old friend The Blackbird. All is normal in the isolated coastal town until Mr. Psyche finds a bullet hole in Uncle Joe-Joe’s window one morning. Just who shot the gun? Was it The General, an old enemy of Joe-Joe’s? Or did the bullet come from inside the house after one too many Malibus? Uncle Joe-Joe either isn’t saying or doesn’t remember. This incident, coupled with the recent tragic loss of a friend in a car crash,  makes Mr. Psyche realise his whole world is on the verge of changing forever. There is a new life taking hold of him, and he must somehow reconcile this with his present life in Ballintra. This is a novel of change. It is a novel about community, family love and bonds strong enough to cross generations. It is also quite a moving portrait of one boy on the cusp of adulthood, and has the lyrical power of a poem.

* * *

Last Sentence: I said good night, and went out and took the Bog road, and started the walk, through the smell of shit, back down through the cut fields, past the rushes and whins and grey shuffling reeds, to the Wake.

Last Sentence explained: In the end both The Blackbird and Uncle Joe-Joe die. The Blackbird goes first after a brief spell in hospital where he keeps calling the doctors “the jugglers”, as they juggle life and death. It is while he is in hospital we learn that he had confiscated Joe-Joe’s rifle for his own protection after the incident with the window. Joe-Joe clearly fired the gun himself but either can’t remember or isn’t saying. Either way, by him taking the gun, and Joe-Joe allowing it, it shows the deep, mutual affection shared by the two men. After The Blackbird’s death, Joe-Joe finds it difficult to go on and before too long he himself is dead. The final scene is played out in local pub Mister Sweet’s where Mr. Psyche goes to drink a Malibu in Joe-Joe’s honour. Once this is done he leaves to return to the Wake.


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