This is a book tailor made for the hesitant reader of fiction whose first love is the well-written memoir. A meld of lyrical prose describing the sense of place, rural Ireland, and time, the summer of 1959, and a character brought fully to life from love and memory.
Annie Dunne at sixty, and not possessing wealth or beauty (in fact she has a physical deformity from childhood polio), has entered a time of life when her options and possibilities have narrowed considerably. This makes her dependency on the decisions and actions of others unbearable. Her fear over the lack of control she has over her destiny complicates her relationships with everyone around her, including the great-niece and great-nephew for whom she has deep affection. As her fear grew due to the possibility of losing the security and enjoyment -- despite the hard physical work -- of her life on a small farm owned by her cousin, Sarah, it seems Annie's perceptions of others became increasingly distorted. She made her tenuous way through every interaction riddled with self-doubt and anger. Added to this was a heavy weight of guilt with regard to her inability to care for her father in his last days.
It's not possible to select just one or two favorite passages from Annie Dunne. It's so beautifully written that for me it is one long, extended favorite passage. But, here's a bit from the end that speaks to our desire to leave behind a legacy of some sort. Something that says our lives had meaning:
But, although it will be winter soon, the wind of friendship will blow eternally from the south. And even after we have gone, something of that friendship will surely linger hereabouts. We will survive in the creak of a broken gate, the whistle of a bird, the perpetual folding and unfolding of the blossom of my crab-apple tree, a thousand little scraps of crinoline fiercely crushed and fiercely released.