The long-awaited new collection from Bernard MacLaverty examines worlds in collision, relationships fragmenting, innocence face to face with real life, real death. A Catholic schoolboy minding goal has a theological debate with a B-Special; a chess game in Spain is a catalyst for grief and redemption; a Belfast man out walking his dog is kidnapped at gunpoint and told to say his ABC. . .
Interwoven through the book are wry, elliptical 'stories within stories' about fiction and the writing of it, featuring 'your man' -a comically beleaguered alter ego. Acting as foils to the brilliance of the real thing, these very short pieces point up the tough lyricism of MacLaverty's work. As always, his writing is vivid, exact and pellucid, his characters perfectly observed, the surface of the prose deceptively still. It is only once we enter the world of the stories that we begin to make out the huge shapes that move there: loss, love, disappointment, fierce joy.
WALKING THE DOG has been worth waiting for: it is a powerful, honest and moving book by one of the great storytellers of our age.