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The Heart's Invisible Furies

A Novel

by John Boyne

The Heart's Invisible Furies by John Boyne X
The Heart's Invisible Furies by John Boyne
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  • First Published:
    Aug 2017, 592 pages
    Paperback:
    Mar 2018, 592 pages

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Lorri S. (Pompton Lakes, NJ)

A coming of all ages story
To call The Heart's Invisible Furies a coming-of-age novel would be selling it short. Sweeping in scope, it is Cyril Avery's "coming of all ages" story. Cyril is many things: a boy with a secret, an adolescent dealing with desires he has no idea how to reconcile with the society he lives in, a conflicted young groom running away from responsibilities, a man running toward and embracing his true desires, ultimately a man becoming his authentic self. He must make his way in a time when begin gay meant relegating yourself to either a life of lies and repression or a life lived on the ostracized margins of society. Cyril is achingly human on his life's journey: he struggles; he loves imperfectly; he makes mistakes; he loves again and finds happiness only to have it snatched away. You ache for Cyril at every stage of life, wishing the best for him, but you are never sure that the decisions he makes will lead him to happiness. This is a story about what makes a family, about enduring friendships, about betrayal and forgiveness, about redemption. Big themes wrapped in a very human story, this would be a solid pick for readers and book groups who like family sagas with an edge.
Mary H. (Phoenix, AZ)

The Making of a Man
This book by John Boyne depicts the art of story telling at it's best. It was easy to get wrapped up in the life of Cyril Avery as he grew into a young man mostly by default. He certainly did not have parental guidance or adult supervision that could be recognized as loving and although abuse wasn't the norm either, he spent many years experimenting. Circumstances, chance meetings, chaos, imagination and determination follow (and lead) Cyril through life with those people he loves and finally people who love him too. Ireland and all it's trappings from mid century to the present give all the characters in John Boyne's novel real believability. This is a most enjoyable read and one that will resonate with you long after you put the book down.
Peggy A. (Morton Grove, IL)

Paths that cross will cross again
This book is a trajectory of one man's life spanning around 70 years. Cyril, born out of wedlock, in 1945, is an unwilling victim of a repressive and horribly judgmental Irish society. His teenage mother was booted out of her small community in the middle of a church service, penniless and alone.
Their journeys are told in seven year intervals--a wonderful way of organizing this unique narrative.

There are numerous themes at play here: obsession vs. love; bigotry vs. openness; and cultural influences vs individual integrity.
Instead of being heavy handed in dealing with such lofty themes, John Boyne employs a steady undercurrent of humor that is disarming in its subtlety-- but often laugh aloud funny!

The thread of the mother/son connection knits together the story as it weaves in and out of the narrative. As a reader, I was constantly driven forward wondering whether Cyril would ever be united with his birth mother. And happily as Patti Smith sang "paths that cross will cross again".
Susan P. (Mount Vernon, WA)

Diving into a modern family's story
This book grabs you from the first page and keeps your attention until the last. The story is current, modern even, and yet it is as old as time. It is told from one man's perspective .... a story of growing up different in a society that doesn't accept his differences. He tells his mother's story of shame, hurt, and how she conquered it all. We also learn that Cyril's story is equally compelling as he grapples with his unorthodox family upbringing and his sexuality in Catholic Ireland. Cyril feels the necessity of keeping who he is a secret from everyone who knows him, even himself. Eventually, the secrets catch up and Cyril learns that family is made up of those who love you and that you love -- and that it is not necessarily a biological tie. He also discovers that it is really about accepting himself and those he loves as they are. This is a story of love and of a family that comes together in the most unfathomable manner. Each individual we are introduced to is struggling with some facet of acceptance of themselves because of societal pressures to be one certain way. In the end, we find that it is really all about how one perceives oneself and that truth can be liberating. I would recommend this one to anyone. I enjoyed every minute of the rather complex story as Cyril finds love, acceptance and his family at last.
Carolyn S. (Decatur, GA)

The Heart's Invisible Furies by John Boyne
This book is a grand achievement by the author. The story captured the mood and reality of what it was like to grow up gay in Ireland in the time of AIDs. But it was much more; written in the first person, the book tells a story about an ordinary life. The character development is superb as we catch up with the life of the main character every seven years until his death in the present day. One of the best books I have reviewed.
Lauren T. (Orlando, FL)

The Heart's Invisible Furies by John Boyne
I've heard it said that the human body is completely replaced every 7 years. I kept being reminded of this while reading The heart's invisible furies because in this book we are taken through the main character's life from 1945 to 2015, catching up with him every 7 years to find that his life has changed dramatically. We see, through Cyril's eyes, how attitudes toward gender roles and sexuality change and stay the same in Ireland, Amsterdam and New York. I found Cyril's story fascinating, a very satisfying read.
Jill S. (Chicago, IL)

A tragic, funny look into being gay in an evolving Ireland
John Boyne dedicates this sprawling novel to John Irving and that, in my opinion, is no accident. John Irving's works are characterized by two key themes: the absent parent who looms large in his/her offspring's life, and the role of predetermination merged with coincidence. Both these themes are in ample display here.

The book opens with a bang: a teenage girl is humiliated, emotionally abused, and cast out of the church when her pregnancy is revealed. That girl is Cyril Avery's unknown birth mother, who appears intermittently in his life. Adopted by a wealthy and eccentric Dublin couple who insist that his stay in a "tenancy" and that he is "not really an Avery", Cyril is adrift both at home and in the broader Irish theocracy.

Attracted to a charismatic and girl-chasing friend Julian Woodbead, Cyril – who is gay – learns early on to lead a shadow life, suppressing desires and trying to figure out where he belongs.

Yet this novel – bawdy and comedic in parts, poignant and searing in others – is not just a depiction of Cyril's struggles, but also the struggles of Ireland. As Cyril evolves from self-loathing, denial and crippling shame, so does his country, which rejects the scandalous, hypocritical and abusive church structure in favor of a more accepting and equalitarian stance.

I was totally engrossed in this redemptive book and in awe of how John Boyne merged a sense of comedic bravado with heartfelt fury at how the church attempted to destroy the lives of those who stepped outside the lines of its orthodoxy.

Two things in closing: this is not a "gay book". It is a human book and a redemptive one at that, which is must reading for anyone who is traveling the journey to self-acceptance. And, while coincidence plays a heavy role, those who appreciate Irving will recognize how predetermination can impact our individual stories.
John W. (Saint Louis, MO)

My Vote for Best Book of 2017
As an American Irish Catholic man, I was drawn to the book after reading the publisher's summary and wasn't disappointed! The story covers 40-years in the 70-year life of the narrator - Cyril Avery spanning from Dublin / West Cork, Amsterdam and New York. Contained in the story are familiar themes -- the rigidity of the Catholic Church and the hypocrisy of church leaders especially priests fathering children yet denouncing their relationship and the mothers. The author develops each character and we feel as if we knew each of them.

The books also covers the familiar topics of the IRA and the AIDS epidemic. Less frequently covered is the story of the life of gay men in Ireland during the second half of the 20th century or the friendship between a gay and straight man. The author captures their emotions brilliantly.

I laughed, I cried, and most of all I loved the book!
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