There's not a bad story in the bunch, and it's as accomplished a book as Barry has ever written ... Barry does an excellent job probing the psyche of his diffident protagonist, and ends the story with an unexpected moment of sweetness that's anything but cloying — realism doesn't need to be miserablism, he seems to hint; sometimes things actually do work out ... Barry has a rare gift for crafting characters the reader cares about despite their flaws; in just 13 pages, he manages to make Hannah and Setanta come to life through sharp dialogue and keen observations ... Barry proves to be a master of writing about both love and cruelty ... Barry brilliantly evokes both the good and bad sides of love, and does so with stunningly gorgeous writing ... There's not an aspect of writing that Barry doesn't excel at. His dialogue rings true, and he's amazingly gifted at scene-setting — he evokes both the landscape of western Ireland and the landscape of the human heart beautifully. His greatest accomplishment, perhaps, is his understanding of the ways our collective psyche works; he seems to have an innate sense of why people behave the way we do, and exactly what we're capable of, both good and bad.
... a story brimming with both the desire for and the fear of strong feeling, handled with a loose, supple comedy ... Barry holds myth-making and dull reality in teasing balance, with a kind of comic double vision winking at the operatic and the bathetic by turns ... Fate, doom and disaster are lightly invoked, and swiftly brought down ... Barry’s rich comic and lexical gifts have shone particularly in his short fiction...The stories collected here are more relaxed, whimsical, even impressionistic ... Barry in mellower mood is more subtle and surprising ... However brokenhearted, Barry’s stories always sing.
... the animating force behind these tortuous yearnings and consummations is mortality — or the fear of it ... they feature Barry’s distinctive prose stylings: coarse and lyrical, arresting and often hilarious. There are verbal titillations and delights on nearly every page, but also an undertow of sorrow ... Barry’s old country music cuts deep into the reader’s heart.