The Good People

When Nora's husband dies unexpectedly, she is left alone to care for her ailing grandson, who can neither walk nor talk. Desperate for help, Nora turns to Nance, the valley's "bean feasa," known to the locals for her ability to commune with the fairies and heal uncommon illnesses.

"Some folks are forced to the edges by their difference," Nance is told early in her life. This has not always been a bad thing; for many years, she was seen as "the final human before all fell to wind and shadow and the strange creaking of stars. She was a pagan chorus. An older song." Such music is being cast out in the face of new customs, however, as the newly arrived parish priest speaks out against talk of fairies and curses and charms.

The Good People, Hannah Kent's sophomore novel after Burial Rites, unfolds with a building sense of desperation: Nora seeks a cure for her grandson's illness; Nance wants to prove her abilities; the valley's neighbors latch on to any explanation for the misfortunes that have befallen their community. That desperation powers Kent's compelling story forward with a sense of urgency that will captivate readers from the first page, but not at the expense of historical detail. Rich with the language, customs and traditions of 19th-century Ireland, The Good People breathes life into the mythologies of Irish folklore. It unfolds the story of two women desperate to reclaim what little power they can over lives touched with hopelessness and despair in a changing time. --Kerry McHugh, blogger with Entomology of a Bookworm

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