Author: Gerald Hansen
Point of Sale: Amazon
Gerald Hansen, the author, is an American, but lived for a number of years in his mother’s home town of Derry, Northern Ireland. Just noting that the author calls the town “Derry” means he’s a Catholic, as the Protestant residents of the town call it “Londonderry.”
In his new novel An Embarrassment of Riches, distinctions like this matter a lot. The story, a mixture of family saga and black comedy, focuses on two sisters, Fionnuala and Ursula. Fionnuala Flood is matriarch to a brood of seven hoodlums, the lot of which can only aspire to rise to the stature of white trash. Ursula Barnett, married to an American ex-Navy man, won the Irish lottery, and promptly blew the money. Needless to say, the Flood clan considers Ursula to be their private ATM with unlimited withdrawals. Her telling the family “no more” sets in motion a massive set of circumstances that careen around Derry with the grace of a drunken and horny bull.
I have to admit, Hansen’s book is not my cup of tea. However, if you’re into narratives of dysfunctional families or interested in modern life in Northern Ireland, you’ll find his book worth while. There is a lot of black humor, and some insights into the “Troubles” of Northern Ireland.
Hansen’s book is quite well-written and engaging. He does have a good ear for the dialect of English spoken in Derry, which requires a glossary (provided) to penetrate. Hansen uses the American Jed Barnett as his narrative hook, but frankly other then providing a glossary for non-Derryites, Jed has little to do in this book. The real action is from Ursula and Fionnuala, with secondary roles from other family members. Hansen’s POV does tend to wander, jumping between characters even within scenes, but I was able to keep up.
This is a difficult book for me to rate. As a writer, I found it well done, and clearly the work of a craftsman. As a reader, it’s just not what I would buy in a store. That’s not a knock on Hansen, but a statement of what I as a reader enjoy reading. If you’re interested in modern “literary” fiction, Hansen’s An Embarrassment of Riches is a worthwhile read.
Chris Gerrib is a resident of Villa Park, IL and Director of Technology for a Chicago-area bank. Chris is the author of the science fiction novel The Mars Run. He holds degrees from the University of Illinois and Southern Illinois University and is president-elect of the Rotary Club of Darien, IL.