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Excerpt from Tender by Belinda McKeon, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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by Belinda McKeon

Tender by Belinda McKeon X
Tender by Belinda McKeon
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  • First Published:
    Feb 2016, 416 pages
    Feb 2017, 432 pages


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Book Reviewed by:
Poornima Apte
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Dreams fled away, and something about a bedroom, and something about a garden, seen through an open window; and a windfall, something about a windfall—a line which made Catherine see apples, bruising and shriveling and rotting into the ground. Windfall-sweetened soil; that was it. And, the flank of an animal, rubbing against a bedroom wall—though that could not be right, could it? But it was in there somewhere, she knew it was; something of it had bobbed up in herconsciousness as she lay on the lawn in front of James's house, a woolblanket beneath her, one arm thrown over her eyes to do the job of the sunglasses she had not thought to bring.

The French windows were open. They were to the left of the front door, which seemed a bit strange, or pointless or something—if you wanted to walk out to the front of the house, wouldn't you just use thedoor? Still,they were nice—elegant ,that was what they were, and modern—and through them now came the noise of James and his parents, talking in the loud, excited way this family had. His mother shrieked at something James had said, and James swore at her— the fond, gleeful kind of swearing they did all the time, this family; Catherine could not get over them. They were talking, probably, about the local wedding James's parents were going to that afternoon; James was also expected to go, but James was staying home, using Catherine's visit as an excuse.Catherine was not sure how she felt about thiss: a mixture of panic and guilt and flattery, which did not make it easy to relax, lying here in an old bikini belonging to James's sister, not that the fact of lying here in a bikini made relaxation easy in the first place. If her parents knew...But her parents did not know, she reminded herself once again, and once again she put the thought out of her mind.

Arrah, for fuck's sake, Mammy. Tat was James now, really roaring, and next came Peggy, her Cavan accent laying the words down like cards: I'm telling you, Jem, I am telling you. James was a desperate wee shite, that was something else Peggy had said to him a moment ago; Catherine laughed again at the thought of it. Desperate wee shite; she'd say it to him when he came back out here. It would become another of their lines. Already they had their own way of talking, their private phrases, their language, and they'd only known one another since that morning in June; though it seemed like so much longer, it was only six weeks ago that James had shown up in Catherine's flat on Baggot Street, the flat she shared, during term time, with James's old schoolfriends, Amy and Lorraine. It was them he had been looking for, of course, when he had arrived that morning, back from his time in Berlin, but instead he had found Catherine, because Catherine had moved into the bedroom he had left empty the previous October. He had been working for a big-shot photographer over there, someone Catherine, at the time, had never even heard of, but someone big, someone with whom James, despite not even being in college, had managed to get himself a job as an assistant—and this was so typical of James, that he could just go and get something for himself in this way, and it was so unthinkable for Catherine, the guts it would involve, or at least it had been, before meeting James...

Tere, now, was James's father, wry and lovely and long-suffering, asking James if he would not get back out into the garden and give James's mother and himself a bit of peace. Tat lassie, he said—and Catherine knew he was referring to her, and she thrilled to hear herself mentioned—Tat lassie will be dying of the thirst. Ten he added something in a lower tone, inaudible to Catherinie, and Peggy shouted his name, sounding outraged, and James told him he was very smart, very fucking smart, and Now for you, James said then, and Catherine knew that he had done something—maybe had clipped his father on the ear, or pretended to, maybe swiped the last piece of ham from his father's plate. Something, anyway. Some little moment of contact. The previous evening, she had seen James bend down to where his father was sitting at the table and plant on the crown of his head a quick, firm kiss, like a kiss for the head of a baby; just in passing, just as though it meant nothing at all.Catherine had actually blushed. She had felt as though she had done something wrong, something too much, just by having witnessed it. Tis family. Tey were just so— they were amazing. Tey were just brilliant. And it was so strange, because in so many ways they were so much like Catherine's own family—farmers, the house on the hill, the kitchen smelling of the same things, the bedsheets in the spare room the same sheets that Catherine'sparents had on their bed—and yet, they were so—

Excerpted from Tender by Darragh McKeon. Copyright © 2016 by Darragh McKeon. Excerpted by permission of Lee Boudreaux Books. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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