Book Review: Close to Home – Michael Magee

Posted 4 months ago in Book Review

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Those initial years after graduating college are a uniquely difficult period for anyone in their early twenties. One builds an identity for oneself and a home in a new place which, upon graduating, disintegrates and crumbles with frightening anti-climax. This is where we find Michael Magee’s protagonist, Sean Maguire, in that all-too familiar state of listlessness.

Close to Home begins when Sean knocks out a lad at a party who made fun of the area Sean grew up in Twinbrook, a working-class district on the outskirts of Belfast city. As Sean finds himself sleepwalking back into the vices he grew up around – drug abuse, violence, and court orders –  he stumbles out of the nightmare to establish his place amongst this city and its people.

Sean scales the fractured cityscape, finding his footing amongst new friends, new job prospects, and witnesses other Belfast natives grappling with their own identities and sense of belonging. His friends escape to Australia and Berlin, neglected RA men mutter into their pints about what they did for their country, community service workers tend to unmarked graves, and someone leaves messages on the mountain just outside the city: ‘FREE MARIAN PRICE,’ ‘END INTERNMENT.’

Close to Home is a pure and dignified novel about negotiating that ‘where the fuck are we’ feeling – from leaving that couch at that after’s, to telling someone you love them – and all the while casting your anchors and planting your flag: here I am.

Words: Ciara Berkeley

Close to Home

Michael Magee

[Hamish Hamilton]


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