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


He’ll be sitting in the downstairs window. She can’t see him from here, but she knows he’s there. She knows he can see her. He’s watching out for her. It makes her reluctant to go back in.

She takes her iPod out of her pocket and scrolls down through the menu. It takes her a moment to find what she’s looking for. She selects the track and slides the lock over to stop it from slipping before she puts it back in her pocket. Then she pushes her shoulders back and raises her face to the wind as she waits for it to start.

A piece of music for a soprano, and Addie’s voice is anything but. That doesn’t stop her from joining in. She sings along heartily, imagining herself to be in perfect harmony:

“I know that my redeemer liveth . . .”

She doesn’t know all the words but it doesn’t matter. It feels so good to sing. There’s a lot of repetition of the bits she knows. “I know that my redeemer liveth . . .”

She throws her head back and closes her eyes as she sings. There’s no one around to hear her, and anyway, she wouldn’t care if there was. The dog pays no heed to the singing. She’s well used to it. Addie’s striding back towards the shore now, the little dog whirling around her feet as she goes. Behind her, the sky is black and angry, the rain only moments away. The line of the horizon is interrupted by an awkward cargo ship. It’s just sitting there, blocking the view. The chimneys are still pouring smoke out into the air, the smoke pale against the darkness of the sky. The aircraft warning lights are blinking intermittently.

Out beyond Howth Head, another plane comes down out of the clouds and begins the gentle slide towards Dublin Airport.


COMING THROUGH passport control, Bruno suddenly felt too old for all this.

So long since he’d done any traveling, he’d forgotten how physical it was. The rubbery legs, the parched throat. The creaking bowels.

“Reason for your visit?”

“Political refugee,” said Bruno in a moment of madness. The guy looked up at him with raised eyebrows. Surely he wasn’t old enough to be a policeman, he only looked about twelve. He had bright orange hair, hair the color of a carrot. So that wasn’t just a stereotype.

Bruno came to his senses.

“I’m only kidding,” he said. He tried to summon up some charm, leaning in towards the booth in a conspiratorial fashion. Aware now of the line forming behind him.

“I was stretching a point,” he said. “I’m actually here on vacation. Until after the election. Look, November fifth.” He held up the printout of his ticket, but the guy didn’t even bother to look at it. He was scrutinizing Bruno’s face.

“Fair enough,” he said.

He raised his stamp and brought it down with a little thump on the page. Closing the passport, he handed it back to Bruno. Slowly, as if he had all day.

“Tell you what,” he said. “If that crowd are still in charge after the election, come back to me, and we’ll give you asylum all right.”

Bruno wasn’t sure if he’d heard him right.

“No offense, now,” the young policeman added, worried all of a sudden that he’d gone too far.

“No offense taken.”

And Bruno was tempted to say something else but he didn’t.

He slipped the passport into the pocket of his jacket, picked up his carry-on bag, and moved off.

He was still smiling to himself as he waited at the baggage carousel. Fancy that, he thought. Back home, joke with an immigration official and they start taking out the rubber gloves.

But it got him to thinking. By the time he’d spotted his bag snaking towards him, he’d made a pact with himself.

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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