‘After Dad’ is the latest book by Claire Shiells.
Millie Malone, a spirited, thirty-something journalist returns home to Northern Ireland after a life-changing decision leaves her London life in ruins. A family reunion soon unravels, opening old wounds and igniting new grievances regarding the murder of her father by the IRA decades earlier. Retreating to the family cottage in Donegal, Millie soon meets Finn McFall, a fisherman originally from west Belfast, who loves to paint and recite Irish poetry. In the new modern Ireland, Millie believes religion is no longer a barrier for love. But she soon finds home is a place still struggling with a fragile peace and simmering sectarianism. As events unfold, Millie is forced to decide between love and loyalty, eventually having to ask herself the ultimate question: can love really conquer all?
As a resident of Northern Ireland brought up during the Troubles, it occasionally feels like a lifetime away, the way we used to live, the segregation. But then a book like ‘After Dad’ comes into your life and you’re reminded once again how we lived and had our opinions.
The story is seen through the narrative of Millie Malone, who’s returned to Northern Ireland from London to see her sick mother. That’s what she tells her colleagues and friends, but really it’s to reset herself after a hard time. Back home, she reunites with her best friend Sasha who’s basking in wealth with the success of her husband’s chicken factories and car washes. Millie decides to take some time to herself and goes to the family cottage and it’s there that she meets Finn, a Catholic fisherman, poet and painter and thinks she’s Catholic also. Millie wants to tell the truth but fears she’ll lose him. So between falling in love and deciding to investigate a potential story about illegal immigrant workers who are being mistreated, Millie finds herself on a journey of discovery for not only herself but for others.
I enjoyed this story, it’s relatable with the attitudes and opinions, the dialect as well as the colloquiums that I grew up with The story not only focuses on the ‘you’s ems’ and ‘them ems’ of the different religions but also throws in the migrants who are being abused. Millie’s father was killed during the Troubles and the resentment and hardship of the pain and grief is very much there in the story. The writing is beautifully descriptive and the setting of the child home holiday and the memories it evoked also made for tender reading.
Hard hitting, poignant and most certainly relatable, ‘After Dad’ is a beautifully written story of grief, new love and new beginnings.
You can pre-order ‘After Dad’ from Amazon and will be available to buy from good bookshops from 22nd September 2022.