The butchers' blessing

Ruth Gilligan

Book - 2020

"Every year, Úna prepares for her father to leave her. He will wave goodbye early one morning, then disappear with seven other men to traverse the Irish countryside. Together, these men form the Butchers, a group that roams from farm to farm, enacting ancient methods of cattle slaughter. The Butchers' Blessing moves between the events of 1996 and the present, offering a simmering glimpse into the modern tensions that surround these eight fabled men. For Úna, being a Butcher's da...ughter means a life of tangled ambition and incredible loneliness. For her mother, Grá, it's a life of faith and longing, of performing a promise that she may or may not be able to keep. For nonbeliever Fionn, the Butchers represent a dated and complicated reality, though for his son, Davey, they represent an entirely new world-and potentially new love. For photographer Ronan, the Butchers are ideal subjects: representatives of an older, more folkloric Ireland whose survival is now being tested. As he moves through the countryside, Ronan captures this world image by image-a lake, a cottage, and his most striking photo: a single Butcher, hung upside down in a pose of unspeakable violence"--

Saved in:

1st Floor Show me where

FICTION/Gilligan Ruth
1 / 1 copies available
Location Call Number   Status
1st Floor FICTION/Gilligan Ruth Checked In
Subjects
Genres
Bildungsromans
Novels
Published
Portland, Oregon : Tin House 2020.
Edition
First US edition
Language
English
Physical Description
300 pages ; 23 cm
ISBN
9781947793781
1947793780
Main Author
Ruth Gilligan (author)
Review by Booklist Reviews

Irish writer Gilligan (Nine Folds Make a Paper Swan, 2017) crafts a gripping tale of menace and foreboding as modernity descends on the rural Irish community of County Monaghan. The Butchers are a group of eight who, according to ancient tradition, must ritually slaughter the county's beef cows every year. The story radiates from a disturbing photograph of a man strung up by his feet like a slaughtered cow. It unwinds throughout 1996, the year of mad cow disease, and is told by a quintet of alternating characters: Úna, a Butcher's daughter; her mother, Grá; semi-retired farmer Fionn; and his son, Davey. They take turns narrating, while Ronan, a photographer fascinated by the Butchers, appears in chapters titled Interlude, which take place at the opening of an exhibit of his photographs in New York City in 2018, which features the shocking image that made his career. Meanwhile, the Butchers' community of believers is dwindling, and hormone-addled teens, lonely wives, estranged siblings, and corrupt village so-called heroes make for a toxic mix. Copyright 2020 Booklist Reviews.

Review by Publishers Weekly Reviews

In Gilligan's remarkable latest (after Nine Folds Make a Paper Swan), a group of eight men known as the Butchers slaughter and dress cattle on a series of farms in Ireland, practicing ancient rituals meant to ward off a curse. As mad cow disease upends the British beef industry in 1996, American photographer Ronan Monks shoots a photo of a dead man hanging from a meat hook driven through his feet in County Monaghan, where Monks has come to photograph life in the Irish border counties. The man in Monks's photo is a Butcher, but the circumstances of his death remain mysterious for much of the novel, which flashes forward to 2018, with Monks planning to show the photo for the first time. The bulk of the narrative uses four viewpoints: Grá, lonely after her husband leaves for the Butchers' long annual journey, is attracted to Monks. Grá's daughter, Úna, reveres the Butcher heritage and hopes to become the first female Butcher. She practices their rituals and knife skills while her classmates' bullying tempts her to violence. Dairy farmer Fionn joins a risky cattle smuggling scheme in order to pay for treatments at a clinic he believes could cure his wife's brain cancer. Fionn's son, Davey, hopes his college entrance exams will qualify him to study in Dublin. As the desperate protagonists discover how far they will go for their desires, their stories illuminate the power of myth, the tensions between past and present, and the weight of family expectations. With beautifully crafted prose, suspenseful plotting, and imaginative scope, Gilligan's off to a blazing start. (Nov.)Correction: An earlier version of this review incorrectly stated this was the author's first novel. Copyright 2020 Publishers Weekly.

Review by Publisher Summary 1

"Every year, âUna prepares for her father to leave her. He will wave goodbye early one morning, then disappear with seven other men to traverse the Irish countryside. Together, these men form the Butchers, a group that roams from farm to farm, enacting ancient methods of cattle slaughter. The Butchers' Blessing moves between the events of 1996 and the present, offering a simmering glimpse into the modern tensions that surround these eight fabled men. For âUna, being a Butcher's daughter means a life of tangled ambition and incredible loneliness. For her mother, Grâa, it's a life of faith and longing, of performing a promise that she may or may not be able to keep. For nonbeliever Fionn, the Butchers represent a dated and complicated reality, though for his son, Davey, they represent an entirely new world-and potentially new love. For photographer Ronan, the Butchers are ideal subjects: representatives of an older, more folkloric Ireland whose survival is now being tested. As he moves through the countryside, Ronan captures this world image by image-a lake, a cottage, and his most striking photo: a single Butcher, hung upside down in a pose of unspeakable violence"--

Review by Publisher Summary 2

A modern tale inspired by Irish folklore traces the experiences of a butcher’s family that is shaped by loneliness, faith, young love, a difficult promise, fading cultural practices and a photographer’s image of an unspeakably violent murder.

Review by Publisher Summary 3

Winner of the 2021 RSL Ondaatje PrizeThe Butchers’ Blessing

Review by Publisher Summary 4

Every year, Úna prepares for her father to leave her. He will wave goodbye early one morning, then disappear with seven other men to traverse the Irish countryside. Together, these men form the Butchers, a group that roams from farm to farm, enacting ancient methods of cattle slaughter. The Butchers’ BlessingThe Butchers’ Blessing