Brendan O’Carroll

Brendan O’Carroll
The Mammy 

The music of the Jarro—St. Jarlath’s parish in Dublin—rings throughout The Mammy: children shrieking, mass being chanted, costermongers hawking their wares, and the voice of one Marion Monks, who sticks her head in the church door every morning to say, “Hello God, it’s me, Marion.”

Being on first-name terms with the divine and the profane is a hallmark of this working-class Irish neighborhood. In the midst of its cacophony and teeming life the seven Browne children, suddenly minus a father, are growing up. The irrepressible Agnes Browne defends her brood against all comers, even whacking a nun with a cucumber—the nearest weapon to hand—for punishing her daughter.

The justice of the peace who hears her case makes the mistake of asking “How do you plead?”

“Well, I kinda squash me face up like this”—here Agnes gives a demonstration—“and I say ah go on, please.

Coping on her own is a constant challenge for Agnes, but she proves equal to every situation. When Mark, the oldest boy, worries about hair growing in unaccustomed places, she manages an inspired answer: “That’s to keep your willy warm when you go swimming.”

Brendan O’Carroll belongs to a handful of Irish writers, Roddy Doyle and Frank McCourt among them, who speak in tones so natural they seem to be yarning over a pint. The Mammy and the three related books that follow it bubble over with warm humanity and hilarious exchanges, peppered with keen insights on family dynamics.

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