Cover image for Everything in this country must : a novella and two stories
Everything in this country must : a novella and two stories
McCann, Colum, 1965-
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Metropolitan Books, 2000.
Physical Description:
150 pages ; 20 cm
Everything in this country must -- Wood -- Hunger strike.
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
X Adult Fiction Central Library
X Adult Fiction Open Shelf

On Order



In a daring tour de force, one of our writers takes on the most intractable of conflicts-the Troubles in Northern Ireland.

In his fourth book, Colum McCann, a writer of fierce originality and haunting lyricism, turns to the Troubles and reveals, as only fiction writers can, the reverberations of political tragedy in the most intimate lives of men and women, parents and children. In the title story, a teenage girl must choose between allegiance to her Catholic father and gratitude to the British soldiers who have saved the family's horse. The young hero of Hunger Strike, a novella, tries to replicate the experience of his uncle, an IRA prisoner on hunger strike. And in Wood, a small boy does his part for the Protestant marches, concealing his involvement from his blind father.

Writing in a new form, but with the skill and force and sparkling poetry that have brought him international acclaim, Colum McCann has delivered masterful, memorable short fiction.

Author Notes

Irish writer Colum McCann was born near Dublin in 1965 and graduated from the University of Texas with a B.A. degree. He has worked as a newspaper journalist in Ireland and written several short stories and bestselling novels. The short film of Everything in this Country Must was nominated for an Academy Award in 2005.

McCann's work has appeared in publications including The New York Times, The Atlantic Monthly, GQ, The Irish Times, La Repubblica, Die Zeit, Paris Match, the Guardian, and the Independent. He has won numerous awards, such as a Pushcart Prize, the Rooney Prize, the Irish Novel of the Year Award, and the 2002 Ireland Fund of Monaco Princess Grace Memorial Literary Award. In 2009 McCann was inducted into the Irish arts association Aosdana. He teaches in the Master of Fine Arts Creative Writing program at New York's Hunter College.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 4

Booklist Review

McCann, author of the masterful This Side of Brightness (1998), sets this collection of short works (two short stories and a novella) in Northern Ireland. The title story is a poignant tale about a farmer and his daughter, whose desperate struggle to save their draft horse, trapped in the river by a summer flood, is further compromised when English soldiers arrive to help save the animal. "Wood" concerns a secret pact between a mother and her son. They conspire to take advantage of the opportunity to bring money into the household after the father is felled by a stroke. In the novella, Hunger Strike, a singer and mother fights for the soul of her young son as his uncle martyrs his life in prison by going on a hunger strike. As the days pass, the tension between mother and son fluctuates until the uncle's inevitable end. All three stories are beautifully, poetically written, but the suffering is so palpable that reading about these characters is painful. Yet the need to read them over and over again can't be denied. --Bonnie Smothers

Publisher's Weekly Review

McCann, who distinguished himself among the impressive flood of recent Irish writers being well-published stateside with his remarkable book of stories, Fishing the Sloe-Black River, and the equally well-received Songdogs and This Side of Brightness, shows off all his talents here, although with mixed results. The two very short stories that begin the book (the title story and "Wood") are sketches, really, and though written with great spirit, are extremely slight. "Everything in the Country Must" involves an archetypal figure struggling to save a horse in a flood, and is a kind of Beckett vignette with muscle. McCann shows he has an eye for dramatic dynamics, but is so untethered in his language ("I stretched wide like love and put one foot on the rock... ") that the narrative becomes annoying in its indulgence. "Wood" fares no better. Again, it is a small event rendered with a kind of mythical grandeur: "Daddy" was "so tall he could grab onto the rim of the door in the mill and pull himself up ten times." But Daddy has a fall, and the mother and young children must drag their cut of lumber to the mill for payment. The muted heroism is so coyly underplayed as to be transparent, which hardly prepares readers for the novella that ends this slender tome. At first blush, "Hunger Strike" is another one of those tales too encumbered by the too-familiar big "Oirish" themes of history, hunger, violence, protest. But the story of 13-year-old Kevin and his mother, holed up in a caravan on the Galway coast in order to avoid the spectacle of Kevin's uncle's slow death "on the blanket" in, presumably, Long Kesh prison, is a piece of work bound for anthology heaven. With the kind of imaginative verve that marked his earlier stories, McCann takes the interior world of this teenager--sneaking smokes from his guitar-playing mother, listening to rock 'n' roll on the radio, thinking of girls and his dead father--and unpacks it with loving delicacy. Kevin in his wanderings in this place he finds "stupid" meets an old Lithuanian couple who live by the shore; they take the boy into their home, and the old man teaches Kevin how to handle a kayak. To while away the excruciating days of the uncle's hunger strike, Kevin and his mother play chess and make sport of constructing new pieces out of bread and cocoa and then putting them in the fridge--they delight in eating "the Queen." There are no pat answers here, as the Lithuanian man, long ago self-exiled from his homeland, makes gently clear. And McCann startles just enough with beauteous phrases (a stone wall "runs like a bad suture towards the sea") and lasting images (Kevin doing his homework on a stool next to his mother at the piano, as she plays for tips in a Galway pub) to keep readers amazed and near tears. "Hunger Strike" builds toward the inevitable mentoring of young Kevin by the older Lithuanian, and the teaching runs both ways. Hemingway's Old Man and the Sea, just as inevitably, will come to mind. (Mar.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

A not-so-well-kept literary secret, McCann (This Side of Brightness) here offers pieces that illuminate the Troubles in Northern Ireland. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

School Library Journal Review

YA-Fear, loss, and violence are as elemental as air and water in the lives of the three teenagers featured, one by one, in these short, brilliant selections. They are growing up in Northern Ireland, where everything from death to a difference of opinion can irretrievably cut families off from one another. Alliance is a constant theme: is the girl in the title story a traitor when she's thankful to the British soldiers who rescued her father's horse from a flooding river? Her mother and brother were killed in an unpunished "accident" with a British military truck. In "Wood," a boy and his mother surreptitiously fashion wooden poles to be used in a Protestant march, knowing that his father-a woodworker debilitated by a stroke-would be deeply hurt by their participation. "Hunger Strike" captures with wrenching beauty a boy's struggle to decide with whom to ally himself: with his mother, who has moved them from the north to the south in order to protect him; or with the uncle he's never met, a key figure in a much-publicized hunger strike. McCann uses simple words in simple sentences, each as clear and pure as if carved in ice. Their restraint is palpable, skillfully reflecting the uneasy restraint of the teenagers as they struggle not to choke on the daily news. It may help YAs to have a bit of a background in the history of the Troubles, for McCann never spells them out (for example, he doesn't say why hunger strikes are taking place). The stories, however, stand on their own as documents of political and personal struggle everywhere.-Emily Lloyd, Fairfax County Public Library, VA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Table of Contents

Everything in This Country Mustp. 1
Woodp. 19
Hunger Strikep. 41