SHORT STORIES REVIEW The Missing Postman and Other Stories
The Co Waterford-born novelist and playwright, Tom O’Brien is still on a very productive streak, and not only has he had two plays produced in London this year, but he has brought out another novel, a book of three Waterford plays, and now a new book of short stories – The Missing Postman and Other Stories. His output is impressive and the work paints a wonderful picture of an Ireland that is quirky and malevolent, as well as giving a wonderful sense of place and time. I am surprised he is not a tourist attraction, and that no Waterford theatre company has scheduled a production of his. What is it about a prophet and his home place?
These stories read like notes to plays, and some are charged with characters and menace, as in the novella-length, The Missing Postman, that looks at the crazy world of Zeb and Zoe, who come to Ireland (Co Waterford) to avenge, separate, unhappy childhoods, and go on a ‘Bonnie and Clyde’ robbery spree. They hide out in a curious cottage of Martin Og, who has surprises in the house of a high-tech nature.
In a chilling exploration that is full of tension and foreboding, the mysterious disappearance of Martin Og’s brother – The Postman of the title is remembered.
In Johnjo’s Tale, we get the sense of emigration and isolation, laced with the sickly nostalgia, for songs of an era of regret, heartache, and rights to property, keeping emigrants forever looking back to the old homestead. This notion of family possessions is forcefully brought home in a very short -The Dispossessed – where the message is driven home (pardon the pun) – you can never go back. Home is not and perhaps, never was, what you desperately wanted it to be.
The Homecoming, is another pithy story where the landscape of memory and the physical landscape of a Hill was quarried away to create a sense of false prosperity. For those who will come to know (and I sincerely hope so) Tom O’Brien as a fine playwright (which he is), these short stories will be viewed as source material into his themes and motivations. But they read as stories in their own right, full of human and bitter honesty, and full of dramatic tension and excitement.