It's the summer of 1974 and Jamie McCloone — bachelor farmer, accordion player and inheritor of ten acres of poor farmland — is looking for a wife. Poor Jamie: he knows so very little about the fairer sex.
His amiable neighbour Rose has spotted a Lonely Hearts advert in the local newspaper and believes that marriage to a nice woman will end all Jamie's troubles. For in Rose's world all any man needs is a wife who'll know "her shortcrust from her puff and keep a nice tidy house and be able to bake a scone or two."
Yet Rose cannot know how difficult courtship would be for Jamie, a man who's never known intimacy. Nor does she know of the existence of a little boy who answered to the number Eighty-Six .. a little boy who suffered horrific abuse in the industrial school where he was abandoned.
The personal ad Jamie answers is his entrance into the world of Lydia Devine. A forty-year-old rector's daughter and schoolteacher, Lydia lives with her widowed mother. Her stern, unyielding father kept Lydia from marrying. Now that he's gone, her domineering mother, fearful that Lydia might desert her, is carrying on where the father left off. She never ceases reminding Lydia of the evils of men. "The only reason I married your father was because he wasn't much into all that bedroom unpleasantness" is one of Mrs. Devine's many well-worn mantras.
The novel plots Jamie's journey towards his momentous first meeting with Lydia. We follow him as, under Rose's guiding hand, he writes letters to her, sets about losing weight, buys a suit, memorizes a recipe for rock buns — and purchases a mail-order toupee.
We laugh at him, and with him — and he's good for many laughs — as he strives to become the man he longs to be. But we weep also at his heroic struggle to leave his painful past behind.
Will he, Jamie, with his cavalier attitude towards personal hygiene, he who lives on a knife-edge of emotion with the odds stacked against him, win the hand of Lydia? Will Lydia, immaculately turned out, poised and polite, find in him the man of her dreams? It seems highly unlikely. But the two, as we learn, are not what they seem. And what they discover about each other, whether for good or ill, will change their lives for ever.
The Misremembered Man
Known chiefly as a painter . . . McKenna proves in this, her first novel, to have a stunning ability to create real human drama.
~ The Washington Times
Her portrait of rural life is amusing and affectionate, wittily and winningly detailed.
I love how McKenna combines seemingly effortless comedy with literary truth. She doesn't pull any punches. I literally laughed out loud at several points.
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