The All of It

by Jeannette Haien

Paper Book, 1986





New York : HarperPerennial, 1988, c1986.


Father Declan de Loughry attends Kevin Dennehy on his deathbed, where he struggles to make a confession of what he shares with Edna Dennehy but cannot. After his death, Edna tells Father de Loughry "the all of it.".

User reviews

LibraryThing member bookwren
My sister-in-law, Suzanne, surprised me with this slender, rich novel, knowing my love for things Irish. I couldn't have asked for a sweeter gift. Lush, evocative language flows from every page, written in a beautiful Irish lilt. On his deathbed, Kevin tells Father Declan a shocking secret, but dies before he can explain. It falls to Enda to tell Father Declan "the all of it" - her life story with Kevin - which she does with pride and stark honesty. Father is torn between his priestly vows and friendship for Enda and Kevin as he listens to the tale of their harsh upbringing and subsequent happiness. He wrestles with his feelings and his conscience as he fishes for salmon the day after Kevin's funeral, stubbornly refusing to quit despite the miserable weather and poor river conditions. The author deftly portrays "the fullness of an angler's desiring" in detailed prose that reads like stream-of-consciousness as Father Declan: "...recalled the times in his life when he'd fished well through midge-ridden days in weather even meaner than this, and how, adroitly, Nature had put her claim on him and made him one with the very ground at his feet, and how, with every cast, past the gleaming green reeds of the shoreline shallows, he'd projected himself towards a specific spot in the river's very heart, a different shading in the water that was like a quality of seriousness, or at a laze in the current's glide, some felt allurement of expectation which became (ah, fated fish), the focused haven of his energy." Now, in a quandary of misery over his harsh words to Enda, today's fishing, and his own feelings, are hopeless.
Haien writes eloquently of Kevin and Enda's joy in the simple life: "... you'd see them, in all weather, sailing on their bicycles down the long hill into Roonatellin to do their week's marketing. They always rode right alongside each other like gleeful, strong children, their heads high and their faces lit in a transport of excitement as the wheels of their bikes rolled faster and faster. The sun on them or rain, or a switch of wind whipping them - it didn't matter - they exuded some high, terribbly intense, obliterating joy..." She echoes my own love of the sea and birds in her characters' excitement: "...whatever variety and lift there'd been to our days had come from the sea, the clouds blown in and the storms and fogs, and then those grand days of a bright sun and wind that'd make us feel like lambs, running..." And Father Declan claiming: "But for charm, it's curlews. And at Leegan's Head, have you noticed too, how tame the land-birds are? The tits and whinchats? I had one land on my head one day." Just like the friendly chickadee that landed on my hand as a child in Connecticut. And more on birds, and how they both excite and bring peace: Father Declan "...saw a kestrel sitting in the drench of the sky and thought of Kevin - of his tame, envying fondness for the wild, unlimited creature." And he felt "... a sense of relationship to the immutable in nature, and, in the soothe of the perspective, he felt himself growing calm." I, too, feel the calmness that nature, in its sometimes unchanging character, brings to a troubled mind or heart.
Kevin and Enda "...both had the same fierce want..." to live contentedly by the sea; the same fierce want David and I have for Lopez Island. In such as this, I feel a part of the story.
I also love learning new and unusual words, which Haien supplied in: "nethered" ("At the sound of her voice, nethered and intense and richly compelling...") meaning lowered, and "gallimaufry" (a confused jumple of things).
This is a novel to be savored again, and to learn something new from at each reading. My thanks and respect to Jeanette Haien for her exceptional story.
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LibraryThing member CarolynSchroeder
This was a surprisingly good little novel (I picked up, put down, and ultimately picked back up and bought for a dollar at a library used book sale), full of the realities of life and the various humans' struggles with morality, as they see it. It unfolds delightfully, from the perspective of Father Declan, who hears a very startling twist on what he thought was the reality about a quiet married couple in his village, Edna and Kevin. The story begins upon Kevin's death and Edna's narrative of what their lives were like, and the violence that shaped their respite. This is a book that sticks with you, makes you re-think some of those blind "moral" bases we all have, and ultimately suffer from, disallowing us to really hear someone else's story. Highly recommended, especially if you enjoy Irish fiction, as it is rich in the sights, sounds and way of life from the Irish countryside.… (more)
LibraryThing member seoulful
A very fine, well-written tale. At first we are drawn to the teller of the tale, a recently widowed Irishwoman. Then we are drawn to the listener, her priest who has come to comfort her. What starts out as a confession to a long concealed sin, becomes a gripping interplay between the widow and the priest as the story uinfolds.
LibraryThing member jdonlan
I think this is a gem in the way that Mark Salzman's "Lying Awake" is. There's room around the words and the story for one's own reflections, but the characters and events are fascinating themselves. I'm impressed.
LibraryThing member lcrouch
I really liked the story and the writing about a priest's dilemma when one of his parishioners dies. His characters are well-fleshed out and the story is intriguing. That said, I think there were some holes in it and I was a bit dissatisfied with the ending.
LibraryThing member hemlokgang
Book Club Selection December 2011.........Foreword by Ann Patchett!?........What a gem of a novella! No wonder Ann Patchett calls it one of her favorites! The Irish tale of right and wrong with a twist. Find yourself swept up in the story of Enda, Kevin, and Father Declan. Solitude, love, salmon fishing, loyalty, and compassion...what more could anyone ask for?… (more)
LibraryThing member laytonwoman3rd
What a gem of a story. Newsweek's reviewer called it "a moral story of the most complex sort". That says it well, but it also has some of the funniest bits of anything I've read in a while. (Parts reminded me of the marvelous short story "The Moveable Hazard" by G. W. Hawkes, which can be found in his collection Playing Out of the Deep Woods. If you don't know his work, you should.)

An Irish priest thinks he has discovered a dreadful sin in his parish and urges a dying man to confess and make it right. The "confession" comes eventually, with a long explanation that makes up the bulk of this short novel. I had the "secret" figured out almost immediately, but the telling and the explaining were a treat. This is a one-sitting read, but have a cup of tea and a good shawl nearby; the fly-fishing sections will chill you to the bone.
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LibraryThing member kellyn
Lyrical language demonstrates the power of conversation and true listening and contrasts with the experience of salmon fishing. (This sounds odd but it works).
LibraryThing member ingrid98684
I don't recall where I came across a reference to this book. Short, simple story with emotional impact.
LibraryThing member bookworm12
The slim novel doesn’t even clock in at 150 pages; it’s almost more of a novella. Set in Ireland, the book tells the story of a man confessing to his priest on his death bed. He tells the priest he has a secret but before he can unburden himself he passes and it’s left to his wife Edna to tell the “all of it” to the priest. What unfolds in the following pages tugs at the heart and mind in powerful ways. Through the priest we find ourselves in the role of both friend and confessor to the dying man and Edna.

The story is brief, but it packs a punch. It makes you think about your feelings on guilt and judgment and second guess your initial reaction. You question the role circumstances play in our lives. It’s an odd book, a whirlwind of information that leaves you processing it for days.

BOTTOM LINE: Short but powerful; this intimate story is one of survival. Find a copy if you get a chance!

"Dead faces," she said whitely, "they're all the same. They don't, I mean, tell of the person as they were alive."

"... in this life it's best to keep the then and now and the what's-to-be as close together in your thoughts as you can. It's when you let the gaps creep in, when you separate out the intervals and dwell on them, that you can't bear the sorrow."
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LibraryThing member GraceZ
Just the kind of book I like, short and excellent, very well written, and about life, without over-dramatization. Plus the added aspect of reading about another culture is always interesting.
LibraryThing member Brainannex
Heard about this from a trusted source as one of those fabulous quiet gems. Not so much.
LibraryThing member jjaylynny
Sweet and deep at the same time. A small story, well told, of innocence, desire, longing. And fishing.
LibraryThing member Citizenjoyce
This is a lovely, subtle book about hard work, relationships, loneliness and fishing. Highly recommended.



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