Tender: A Novel
by Belinda McKeon
Little, Brown and Co. 416 pages, $27.
IRELAND has changed dramatically over the past half-century. Ragged gypsies aren’t huddled with barefoot children on the bridges over Dublin’s Liffey River, begging for alms—a common sight in the late 1960s. The low-level but savage sectarian war over Northern Ireland that began in 1968 seems to have finally run its course. In 1993, Roman Catholic Ireland decriminalized homosexual relationships, and last year it became the first country to legalize same-sex marriage via public referendum.
Irish-born writer Belinda McKeon puts some faces into this drama in her novel Tender, which considers the turmoil generated for her characters against the backdrop of peace talks that would end the violence known as The Troubles. Born in 1979, McKeon grew up on a farm in Longford, Ireland. She now lives in Brooklyn and teaches at Rutgers. Tender takes place primarily in 1997 and 1998, just as a truce was being negotiated in Ulster.