Jumping between periods, the novel locates stark contrasts in a country bound by history that also struggles to accept the changes from the outside world ... Written from multiple points of view, the book is populated by colorful local phrases such as 'rip the piss' and 'felt a total tuck.' Its characters, from the gruff Butcher to a nerdy overachiever, are gritty and believable. As each hurtles toward their destiny, the tension grows; the pieces come together in a conclusion that is brutal yet redemptive.
... the strength here is not the richness of the characters—Úna, especially, feels generically free-spirited, a standard-issue tween literary heroine—but the richness of the world. It’s an atmospheric portrait of a country at a crossroads, moving away from the traditional ways and toward a slick new millennial future. Thoroughly lovely. Cattle have never been so riveting.
In Gilligan’s remarkable latest, a group of eight men known as the Butchers slaughter and dress cattle on a series of farms in Ireland, practicing ancient rituals meant to ward off a curse ... As the desperate protagonists discover how far they will go for their desires, their stories illuminate the power of myth, the tensions between past and present, and the weight of family expectations. With beautifully crafted prose, suspenseful plotting, and imaginative scope, Gilligan’s off to a blazing start.