It was amazing how historical this novel seemed to be, sparked by the Declan’s decision to finally tell his family that he’s dying of AIDS. Do we still tell these stories? Shouldn’t we? But Declan’s health is more of Toibin’s catalyst that his plot. His illness forces his very much estranged family back together along with two of his friends. This ends up really being the story of his sister, Helen, and their mother.

This is a remarkable story. Toibin is a reliably great writer. The sudden intimacy between Declan’s friend, Paul, and his sister, Helen, seemed to be the only false note.