Last Night on Earth by Kevin Maher

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Last Night on Earth by Kevin Maher

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Category: General Fiction
Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: Ani Johnson
Reviewed by Ani Johnson
Summary: A less than textbook birth, a relationship under stress and the warmth, earthiness, fun and poignancy of life, the luck (and not so luck) of the Irish… welcome back Kevin Maher!
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 384 Date: April 2016
Publisher: Little, Brown
ISBN: 978-1408705070

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Baby Bonnie is born in London in 1996 to Jay and Shauna but her traumatic birth and the aftermath causes the previously happy couple to separate. Jay looks back searching for how he got to this point and Shauna looks for answers in psychotherapy with a less than orthodox Danish analyst. Meanwhile both share Bonnie and worry about where they go from here.

Irish journalist, film critic and author Kevin Maher has fast forwarded a decade from his last novel The Fields. The teen-hood of Jim in 1980s Ireland gives way to the 90s as we follow a different character: Irish émigré Jay who comes to London for work and a life. He finds both and something he wasn't expecting – Shauna.

We don't spend all our time with the young couple as pair though. Kevin takes us back and forth so we live in both the now and the past, back to Jay's free and single days. Having said that, it's fitting that the very first person we meet is Bonnie, the catalyst of what’s to follow as we witness her birth from the inside out.

Jay's story comes via his first person narrative to us and from regular letters home to his Mammy (leading to a heart lurching twist). Meanwhile interspersing chapters bring us Shauna's experience with the smarmily awful Dr Ghert. We're there with them in the consulting room, at least to begin with, adding a comedic level of inappropriate questioning.

Kevin doesn't just write vivid people; he does memorable set pieces too. I loved the dinner party during which a vicar tacitly challenges Jay to a theological quiz, Jay being just a builder and all! By dessert it's we who have the last laugh.

The author also ambushes us with his ability to manipulate words, often knocking us back with the impact. For instance I was suddenly transported back to childhood bedtimes on reading Jay's words to his mother:

… and you, by my bed, kneeling low and whispering sleep.

He also uses this gift to show us a glimpse of the pressure and torment involved in raising a disabled child, as well as the hard earned-rewards.

Jay and Shauna's relationship is peppered with films – or rather fillums – that convey meaning to them, reflecting Kevin's interest and knowledge. It may not be meant as a subtle hint but it did cause me to wonder how this story would translate into a movie. I'd pay to see it; what do you reckon?

A big thank you to Little Brown for providing us with a copy for review.

Further Reading: The Fields is well worth a read. If you have read it and would like more of Ireland's literary treasures, we also heartily recommend Beneath an Irish Sky by Isabella Connor.

Buy Last Night on Earth by Kevin Maher at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Last Night on Earth by Kevin Maher at

Buy Last Night on Earth by Kevin Maher at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Last Night on Earth by Kevin Maher at


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