Constance and Hannah, Dan and Emmet and their mother Rosaleen are the family from County Clare at the centre of The Green Road.
Split into two parts, the first part concentrates on the characters as individuals, each one given their own episode to tell their story at a particular time, starting with Hannah aged 12 in 1980; until in part two, back in Ireland for Christmas, we see the family together in 2005.
I thought this was a really clever way of writing about a family and its dynamic. Catching up with each member of the family wherever they are in the world over 25 years raised plenty of social and political issues. Alcoholism, humanitarian work in Africa and the AIDS crisis in the early 1990’s were among topics which could be upsetting, interesting, shocking or sad or all of them together. I found that my liking for them changed in different times and places, Emmet in Africa I really liked but Emmet back in Ireland really was a bit of an arse; and while snippets of news about each other might be raised by a letter or ‘phone call, it was more often their absence from each other’s episodes that I noticed.
So that when they come together in part two, it seems a disparate group of individuals, who arrive for Christmas. Slightly intimidated and uncomfortable with each other’s adultness, (captured perfectly in the line: “In the place where Constance loved Dan, he was eight years old”), they bristle and rub each other up the wrong way and try to recreate the old family Christmas for Rosaleen:
“‘Any chance of a coffee?’ said Dan
‘There’s no coffee,’ said Constance. ‘Sorry. I forgot.’
‘You forgot,’ Hanna said, reaching for her cigarettes; the sloppy sarcasm perfectly pitched to undo her sister, who was heading for the door.”
At times they were incredibly annoying, and I don’t know why they found their mother so difficult. Rosaleen spends a good deal of her time looking back over her life but she seemed perfectly fine to me, all they need to do is sit down and talk to her. . .
This was an honest, sometimes raw, sometimes funny look inside a family.