Dublin, 2012. Deena has just been outed as a lesbian at school and is overwhelmed by homophobic bullying. Her religious father is threatening to disown her, and her older sister Mandy – normally so cool and comforting – is freaking out about a family curse. When Mandy disappears, Deena sets off on a journey across the country, searching for answers in the dark and painful fates that have befallen the female ‘bad apples’ on her family tree.
The decision to structure the main storyline as a simple road trip is brilliant, allowing a series of twisting historical branches to be supported by a sturdy narrative trunk. Deena’s relationships with her sisters are beautifully developed, becoming more complex as she learns about the burdens that each has borne on her own journey. Fans of Fowley-Doyle’s rich, vivid prose will not be disappointed. The Ireland that she describes is at once familiar and grotesque, beautiful and broken. While adult readers will be able to predict the types of social traps that these ‘bad’ women have fallen into, teens will not be as familiar with our shameful but receding recent past. This is a book that features banshees and family curses in which the true horror lies in the historical facts, and the author makes a compelling case for the need to keep excavating these women’s stories and shouting them out as loud as we can.