Author: Anne Tiernan
Publisher: Moa Press
In The Last Days of Joy, as a dysfunctional family gathers during a crisis, new secrets are revealed and old histories seen in a new light.
Irish-born Joy of the title escaped her embittering childhood home for Tauranga, New Zealand. Here she brought up her three children as a single parent, unsupported and filled with self-loathing.
The story commences as she takes desperate measures to obliterate the tragedies in her past. What she does causes her children, now adults, to gather with great reluctance at her bedside.
Each of the three siblings, Conor, Sinead and Frances, bears secrets and burdens of their own. And to varying degrees they attribute their own failings to their mother’s begrudging parenting.
Conor has fallen prey to the worst temptations afforded him in his role as CEO of a charity, and he is now forced to face the consequences.
Frances, apparently the most settled of the three, faces temptations of her own as a former love interest emerges from her past. She searches for a sense of self, taking a good hard look at who she is beyond her lifestyle and her seemingly tight family unit.
Sinead, a writer, struggles with issues of self-worth, and, in an attempt to reignite her creativity, steers dangerously close to acts of plagiarism.
Her character is no reflection on Tiernan, whose debut novel shows great talent. This author has an ability to tell a sad tale with humour and to create realistic characters who combine self-knowledge with avoidance.
The Last Days of Joy is structured as a series of introspective moments featuring each character individually. But there’s nothing static about this book. A vigorous plot line, themed on the discovery of secrets, draws the series of moments together. And it all comes to a satisfying conclusion at just the right time.