Nothing But Blue Sky: Reaching for hope in the depths of grief

Review: Kathleen MacMahon’s novel is full of beautiful prose, powerful metaphors and astute observations

Kathleen MacMahon, author of Nothing But Blue Sky, pictured at  home in Dublin. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

Kathleen MacMahon, author of Nothing But Blue Sky, pictured at home in Dublin. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

“Nothing coming” was a game David Dowling used to play with his brother on the beach in Rosslare. They’d lie on their bellies on the wet sand with their heads facing the beach and their feet just out of reach of the water. Then they would close their eyes and chant, “nothing coming, nothing coming, nothing coming” until a big wave came and crashed over them. The shock of it was always brand new.

The shock of unseen and unanticipated events is at the core of Kathleen MacMahon’s third novel. Set in a world regularly assailed by economic setbacks and man-made disasters from 9/11 to more recent terrorist attacks, an Irish recession, and most recently Brexit, Nothing But Blue Sky opens in the aftermath of a cataclysmic event that causes the death of David’s adored wife. The book describes his emergence from the sudden, slap-in-the-face shock of her loss, and themes of the fragility and the vagaries of life could equally apply to life as it is now while we live through this global pandemic.

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