Greetings, Hero is a collection of stories about in-between men. Middle-aged men who have had families and then irrevocably alienated them; boys who pay visits to eccentric loners and argue with them; students travelling on their summer holidays and having their hearts broken in multiple languages; teachers who prefer to walk miles on a snowy night than take a taxi. These characters are steadfast, intense on-lookers, on the periphery of every society they encounter.
The stand-out stories of the collection are the title novella, charting the progress of an Irishman in Poland and then his Polish friends’ lives in Ireland, and the story Self Assembly, in which a shy man purchases and constructs a self-assembly woman. Both of these pieces revolve around themes of self-delusion and disappointment, which sounds like grim reading, but at his best Aiden O’Reilly invites the reader into the murky, unstable world his migrants inhabit, focusing on the sensorial reality of cold, lonely, hungry days and nights. At over 300 pages, the collection could stand to lose a few pieces. The characters begin to seem repetitive a few stories in, and the book’s better stories outshine the weaker ones. Nonetheless, O’Reilly’s voice is strong, his vision is remarkably clear, and the stories are dotted with beautiful turns of phrase.
Words: Anna-Grace Scullion