The Last Crossing, by Brian McGilloway.
Brian McGilloway divides the action of his superb story into chapters alternating between the present day, and terrible events of thirty years before, when The Troubles dominated the whole of Ireland. No-one could ever be neutral in those times; you were either a staunch Republican and ready to die for the cause and/or kill for it, or Northern Irish, who felt the same.
Now, a Peace Agreement has been signed, and fanatical enemies of thirty years ago have supposedly jettisoned their innate hatreds and are jockeying for positions in the new government. It’s the dawn of a new peaceful era!
Thirty years ago, lovers Karen and Tony are inveigled into supporting and facilitating clandestine acts of sabotage controlled by Duggan, an acquaintance who appeals to their sad history of having family members murdered by the Military and Derry Police: ‘It’s the least yez can do to avenge their memory!’ And that’s alright, as far as it goes, until they are party to a cold-blooded assassination performed by Duggan on his best friend, who has been unmasked as a tout, a snitch, a betrayer. This was not what they signed up for, especially as Tony, a teacher, finds that one of his pupils, a child he knows and cares about, will become collateral damage: he can’t let that happen.
Thirty years later, he, Duggan and Karen are summoned by political hopeful Sean Mullan; he’s running for office and wants to exhume the Snitch’s body from its secret hiding-place, returning the remains to the family so that they will have ‘closure’, and Mullan will be seen to be magnanimous in letting Bygones be Bygones. The cynicism of his reasoning is breathtaking, but is so outrageous that it will be successful, as the tout’s family have been searching for him fruitlessly for many years: they truly do want ‘closure’, and as Tony, Duggan and Karen are the only ones who know where they buried him, they are the ones who must find him again. Except that their world has changed; life has gotten in the way and nothing - and nobody – is the same: Duggan is still full of hatred – ‘the war is never over’; Tony is a solitary, childless widower, and Karen has a family but has been marked forever by the events of their youth.
And the revelations keep coming, in Mr McGilloway’s spare, beautiful prose. Each sentence does the work of ten and his protagonists speak to us eloquently of the dreams we all have but are seldom realised. Superlative. SIX STARS.