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3.63 based on 59 ratings & 11 reviews on Goodreads.com

2017 Long-listed

Desmond Elliott Prize

Synopsis

Longlisted for the 2017 Desmond Elliott Prize

Ithaca, the ferociously funny and unbelievably poignant debut novel from Alan McMonagle, combines a fiercely emotional story with crackling prose.

This was the summer after all the money disappeared. One minute it was here. The next it had vanished. All of it. Without trace . . . Now that all the money had vanished everyone had their eyes and ears ready for all manner of doom.

Summer 2009, and eleven-year-old Jason Lowry is preoccupied with thoughts of the Da he has never known. In the meantime, his vodka-swilling, swings-from-the-hip Ma is busy entertaining her latest boyfriend and indulging her fondness for joyriding.

Jason escapes to the Swamp: a mysteriously rising pool of fetid water on the outskirts of the town. There, he meets the girl, a being as lost as himself, and with even less regard for reality. Together, they conjure exotic adventures - from ancient Egypt to the search for Ithaca, home of Odysseus. But what begin as innocent flights of fancy soon become forays into hazardous territory; the girl is a dangerous (and very committed) partner in crime.

In the media

A fierce and funny novel that tackles tough topics with great imaginative flair. Ithaca doesn’t take itself too seriously, and is all the more affecting for it . . . Jason’s jaunts around town are reminiscent of Francie Brady in The Butcher Boy – young bucks who are wonderful mimics of adult mannerisms while simultaneously struggling to understand the intricacies and injustices of the grown-up world . . . For Jason and his friend the exotic Ithaca offers refuge and new beginnings. Skilfully meshing imagination with reality, McMonagle sets out to discover if the same things can be found at home.The novel belongs to Jason and his Ma, who, through an epic journey of adversity, manage to find their way back to each other
Irish Times
Comparisons to Pat McCabe’s masterpiece The Butcher Boy abound, as both novels present the reader with brilliantly-formed child protagonists, full of back-alley grit and hilarious, dark narrative . . . Ithaca feels somehow other-worldly yet familiar . . . while McMonagle brings a timeless quality to his writing. It is a story full of humour, sometimes cute and innocent, but often blackened by experiences which Jason is too young to fully comprehend . . . Jason Lowry wins our heart from the very first page. By the novel’s end, this crescendo of beautifully-crafted writing has the reader yearning for a future for him that reflects the dreams he retreats to so often. Ithaca is as hopeful as it is heart-breaking and Jason is a kid that we need to believe will succeed out there. We’re too invested, too protective of him, to entertain any other outcome
RTÉ
Its exuberance and punch are beguiling. [Jason's] relationship with his ma is bedevilled by his lack of understanding, his observation of the adult world is often very funny indeed, and there’s a poignancy and depth that give Jason’s odyssey that extra fillip.
Daily Mail