Excerpt from This Is How It Ends by Kathleen MacMahon, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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This Is How It Ends

A Novel

by Kathleen MacMahon

This Is How It Ends
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  • Published:
    Aug 2012, 352 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Norah Piehl

About this Book

Print Excerpt

But the wait was still unbearable.

And here was Bruno, suspended in the air between these two points, 0:21 minutes to destination. He imagined himself as a little man on the moving map, a crude gingerbread cutout. He plotted his journey right along that sweeping arc across the ocean. He was just tracing the line with his finger when, without warning, the screen went black.

The PA system kicked into action again and the cabin lights came up. The seat-belt signs were turned on and the cabin crew started moving through the plane handing out immigration cards. Blinking in the vicious light, Bruno filled his card out carefully with the ballpoint pen they’d given him. Once he’d finished, he discovered he had nowhere to put the card. He tucked it into the inside cover of his book and held the book closed in his lap.

A slow descent through the clouds, there was Bruno hunched at the window, peering hopefully out at nothing. All he could see was the rain streaking the outside of the window, the gray expanse of the plane’s wing plowing on through dense white air. There was no way of knowing how close they were to the ground.

Suddenly, there was green outside the window. There was wet grass rushing by and a red-and-white-striped wind sock and a low gray building and the terrible sound of the wheels briefly hitting the ground and then bouncing off it again. A messy landing, the body of the aircraft swung violently to the left and then to the right before finally steadying itself as the brakes took hold. Bruno held on to the back of the seat in front of him with his two hands to stop himself from falling forward.

As the plane wheeled in towards the terminal building, he had a giddy sense of elation. After all these years, he had finally done it. Thirty years since that deathbed promise and it had been haunting him ever since. Now it was done. For a moment he imagined that he could just stay on the plane and go right back. Until it occurred to him, there was nothing to go back to.

His spine shuddered as he leaned over to grope for his shoes on the floor. He stuffed his earphones into the pouch on the back of the seat. Unclipped his seat belt. Sat there, longing to brush his teeth.

The plane jolted to a stop and there was a big exhale as the doors were opened. Immediately people were up and delving into the overhead compartments to retrieve their stuff. A moment or two waiting for the order to move, then they were shuffling along with their heads bowed like prisoners in a chain gang. Bruno shunted himself over to the aisle seat, heaved himself onto his feet, and stretched up to get his carry-on down. Then he moved with the line towards the door of the aircraft. He nodded at the stewardess and stepped out into the plastic tunnel connecting the plane to the terminal building. He began the gentle climb up the walkway, following the people ahead of him. There was a strange comfort in being part of this orderly procession, like being on a pilgrimage.

As he crossed over the elbow joint, it wobbled under him, as if it were a floating jetty. His stomach wobbled with it. He felt light as a balloon. He took his bag off his shoulder and let it hang down towards the floor, clutching it for ballast. Without it, he imagined he might just float up into the air.


On a clear day you can see Dublin Bay laid out below you as you come in to land. Dun Laoghaire harbor way over to the left, Portmarnock to the right. Between them the vast empty stretch of Sandymount strand.

From the beach you can watch the planes arriving, a steady stream of them moving silently across the sky. They appear way out to sea, coming in on a gentle gradient above Howth Head and gliding along the south wall. Then they disappear noiselessly down into the city.

Excerpted from This Is How It Ends by Kathleen MacMahon. Copyright © 2012 by Kathleen MacMahon. Excerpted by permission of Grand Central Publishing. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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