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Mary O’Hara is a sharp and cheeky 12-year-old Dublin schoolgirl who is bravely facing the fact that her beloved Granny is dying. But Granny can’t let go of life, and when a mysterious young woman turns up in Mary’s street with a message for her Granny, Mary gets pulled into an unlikely adventure. The woman is the ghost of Granny’s own mother, who has come to help her daughter say good-bye to her loved ones and guide her safely out of this world. She needs the help of Mary and her mother, Scarlett, who embark on a road trip to the past. Four generations of women travel on a midnight car journey. One of them is dead, one of them is dying, one of them is driving, and one of them is just starting out.
It is 1968. Patrick Clarke is ten. He loves George Best, Geronimo, and the smell of his hot water bottle. He hates zoos, kissing, and the boys from the Corporation houses. He can’t stand his little brother Sinbad. He wants to be a missionary like Father Damien, and he coerces the McCarthy twins and Willy Hancock into playing lepers. He never picks the scabs off his knees before they’re ready. Kevin is his best friend. Their names are all over Barrytown, written with sticks in wet cement. They play football, knickknack, jumping to the bottom of the sea. They shoplift. Robbing Football Monthly means four million years in purgatory. But a good confession before you died and you’d go straight to heaven. Paddy wants to know why no one jumped in for him when Charles Leavy had been going to kill him. He wants to stop his da arguing with his ma. He’s confused: he sees everything, but he understands less and less.
Jimmy Rabbitte, Sr. is unemployed, spending his days alone and miserable. When his best friend, Bimbo, also gets laid off, they keep by being miserable together. Things seem to look up when they buy a decrepit fish-and-chip van and go into business, selling cheap grub to the drunk and the hungry—and keeping one step ahead of the environmental health officers.
This funky, rude, unpretentious first novel traces the short, funny, and furious career of a group of working-class Irish kids who form a band, The Commitments. Their mission: to bring soul to Dublin!