On most occasions when I’ve read a book and been struck by its uniqueness, it’s because of something unfamiliar about it, something strange I’ve never seen before. This is the first time one has stood out for its relentless and positively brilliant mundanity. The title characters of Irish writer Rónán Hession’s debut novel are two meek, ungainly men in their mid-thirties, neither of whom has quite managed to make the leap into independent adulthood. One is a ghost writer of encyclopedias for children, the other is a part-time substitute postman, and both are still trapped in the orbit of their parents, at least until the death of Leonard’s mother triggers a minor crisis of identity. It would be all too easy to write this story as a tragedy, or cast these unlikely heroes as sad sacks in a satirical mockery, but Hession has produced a warm comedy that valorizes their simplicity, their gentleness, and their humanity. It’s rare that fiction makes true friendship its subject, at least not in a setting without life-or-death stakes, and this novel does it better than any I’ve read before. As with childhood role model Mr. Rogers, a first glance may leave the impression of mild blandness, but there’s surprising power in Leonard and Hungry Paul‘s refusal to be mean. In the end the effect it leaves is one of strength. Read it—it’s good for what ails you.
—James Crossley, Madison Books, Seattle, WA