Many pints on the far side of moderation, in a rambunctious Irish pub named McCarthy's, a momentous decision was made to write this wickedly funny travelogue of Ireland. Oddly enough, this happened to be in Hungary. Meet Pete McCarthy, our wonderful guide on a quest to understand his draw to the homeland of his Irish mother. Born and predominantly raised in England, Pete explains that "from an early age it was taken for granted that Jesus was Catholic, God himself was Irish, and I had been born into a wicked, pagan country." After a disturbing and hilariously nervous description of his childhood terror under the Christian Brothers and their violent means of discipline and amusement, Pete finds himself immersed in Catholicism, although thankfully of a generally gentler nature. McCarthy decides to undertake a three-day pilgrimage/fast, the ultimate goal of which is walking barefoot with very little sleep on a remote island at a place named St. Patrick's Purgatory. With all this suffering awaiting poor Pete, he has the perfect excuse for all his excesses in the weeks preceding. Interspersed throughout light-hearted escapades in search of grand parties and perfect pints, McCarthy reflects on the troubles and tragedies of Ireland's history. After the excruciating pilgrimage has finally been overcome, McCarthy goes home to England, feeling closer to Ireland and its culture, and indeed so does the reader.
Be sure your passport is current before picking up this book! You may not be as talented as Pete McCarthy at finding a country's hidden treasures, but if you follow his rule of never passing up a pub with your (or your ancestors') name on it, you could give it a good try.
Reviewed by eo, 8/01. Other reviews by eo.