The Magazine

In a Family Way

An Anglo-Irish tale of generations.

Mar 5, 2007, Vol. 12, No. 24 • By EDITH ALSTON
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Time and again we glide through such scenes, sensing their full import just off to the edge, beyond our peripheral vision. But at the core of David's regard for Eleanor is something inert, even claustrophobic, so that following them through their marital ups and downs, we eventually lose interest in the ins and outs of their concerns. Eleanor's needs remain smothering without ever finding a voice; David's conscientious turning-away, because of his marriage, from early hopes and dreams, never leads him to surprising or more interesting depths. After a while, until rescue arrives in the form of a website map, he seems merely to have meandered off the main track.

Given so many ways this story might end, McGregor arrives eventually at a satisfying mix of irony and reality, nicely balancing the modest ambitions of his characters against the story's historical reach. In the hands of so appealing a writer, though, it is hard not to wish for the greater distance David might have traveled.

Edith Alston is a writer and editor in New York.