The Good People by Hannah Kent
Nora’s daughter and husband have both died and she is left to care for her grandson Micheál alone. When Nora saw Micheál when he was two he was an ordinary little toddler running around and babbling. Micheál is different now. He is four and he does not walk or talk, nor does he seem to have any control of his limbs or his body at all. He screams day and night and Nora is at a breaking point. She goes to a hiring fair in the nearby town and hires Mary Clifford, a young girl of fourteen, to help around the house and with Micheál’s care. Still overwhelmed by her grandson and unable to find help from a doctor or the priest Nora turns to Nance Roche, the local handywoman who is also good with the cures. Nance is convinced that this creature is not Micheál but a changeling left in her grandson’s place by the good people. What follows are the more and more extreme methods to banish the fairy and have the human boy returned.
I loved Kent’s first book, Burial Rites, which also took place in a rural community but in Iceland. She has the ability to make the past come to life and to allow you to empathize with all the characters equally which makes for a challenging but rewarding read. The most fascinating part of the book is the ending when you see the harsh juxtaposition of Ireland in the rural areas of 1826 compared with Killarney and the ways of the learned in that bustling town. I can’t wait to see where she takes us next.
A must listen to get the correct pronunciation of all the Irish names and words but also because the reader was simply very good.