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Red Dirt by EM Reapy is Book Club pick for May

Debut novel about three young Irish economic migrants in Australia won Newcomer of the Year at the 2016 Irish Book Awards

Elizabeth (EM) Reapy, a writer and tutor from Mayo, was featured in The Long Gaze Back: An Anthology of Irish Women Writers and shortlisted for the 2017 Hennessy Award in Emerging Fiction

Red Dirt by EM Reapy is the Irish Times Book Club selection for May 2017. This debut novel won Newcomer of the Year at the 2016 Irish Book Awards and was shortlisted for the 2017 Kate O’Brien Award.

Reviewing it for The Irish Times, Sarah Gilmartin wrote: “Elizabeth Reapy’s debut novel, Red Dirt, takes the modern Irish immigrant experience and turns it into a thought-provoking, vibrant novel that grips the reader from the start. It is highly impressive writing from a first-time novelist, a story that moves from humour to poignancy with ease as it focuses on three young Irish drifters, each hoping for redemption in a parched Australian landscape.”

Red Dirt tells the story of three young Irish people who have come to Australia, running from the economic ruins of their home country and their own unhappy lives. In this promised land, stunned by the heat and the vast arid space of the interior, they each try to escape their past in a chaotic world of backpacker hostels, huge fruit farms and squalid factories, surrounded by new friends who are even more damaged and dangerous than they are themselves.

Endless supplies of cheap drink and drugs loosen what little sense of responsibility they have, and a spiral of self-destructive behaviour forces each of them to face up to the reality of their lives. This is a story of the consequences of impulsive choices and of the places where they lead. A vulnerable young man is left alone by his friends in a remote wilderness; a desperate girl puts herself into the hands of violent sex traffickers; a once-privileged favourite son lets a drunken quarrel escalate to murder.

Joseph O’Connor wrote: “EM Reapy’s debut novel blew me away. What a magnificent writer she is.” The Irish Examiner review called it “astoundingly accomplished ... thought-provoking and addictive.” The Irish Independent said it was “a thought-provoking, vibrant novel that grips the reader from the start. It’s a confident and distinctive debut, and one would have to be dead to the thrill of fiction not to be hugely excited about what its author will do next.” The Sunday Independent declared it “as accomplished a debut as you’ll find”.

Elizabeth (EM) Reapy is a writer and tutor from Mayo. She was featured in The Long Gaze Back: An Anthology of Irish Women Writers. She was shortlisted for the 2017 Hennessy Award in Emerging Fiction.

Over the next four weeks, we shall run a series of articles by the author and fellow writers on Red Dirt, culminating in a public interview with Elizabeth Reapy by Laura Slattery of The Irish Times at The Irish Writers Centre in Parnell Square, Dublin 1, on Thursday, May 25th, at 7.30pm, which will be uploaded as a podcast on May 31st on irishtimes.com