Mary McGahern goes off to university from the small town of Leitrim Falls. Mary was mostly schooled at home by a self-taught, highly literate, widower farmer father, which has always made her an oddity.
Professor Jake Flynn, nearing retirement, despairs of contemporary higher education in English Literature, which has moved away from reading and studying the best that has been thought and written to viewing literature as valuable only to the extent that it contributes to improving the world. Mary becomes Professor Flynn’s student in two courses.
Plaguing Jake, in the tradition of the academic satire, is also a story of young love and a mystery (a rare edition of James Joyce’s Ulysses is stolen from a display case). The novel heralds a powerful return to literary storytelling in an essential Canadian narrative, by a writer whose fiction has been described as a “cross between Roddy Doyle and Alice Munro.”