The setting is Belfast in the 1970s. In a city in which any storefront might unexpectedly explode, Marius Moonston, age 16, is out shopping. It’s Saturday, and the streets are filled with danger and excitementâ€”especially for Marius, whose pocket is burning with the money he has pilfered from his sister.
Marius has a mission (he knows just what he wants to spend that money on), and a conscience steeped in the dichotomies of the Evangelical church. Ricocheting through the story is the nature of deceit and truth, commerce, disobedience and sin. The consequences of a petty crime are enormousâ€”cathartic and destructive and defining.
McGrady uses language of a distinctly Irish elasticity, and the explosive hilarity of a teenage boy propels the novel to crystalline moments of observation, and shattering self-knowledge.
Praise for The Backslider
"Clever and honest, playful but disturbing--The Backslider is a demanding and hugely enjoyable novel." â€”Roddy Doyle"SeÃ n McGrady has brought loquacious delight to the loss of innocence. Every sentence in The Backslider savors “the peculiar and sometimes painful world of decisions,” as that world orbits through the tumultuous spirit of the 16-year-old Marius. The boy has a stolen bill in his pocket and he’s on the verge of more serious trouble, perhaps even murder, and meanwhile the peregrinations of the kid’s meditations pop and maunder wondrously, often hilariously. Now he’s swept up in some anarchic urge, and now he’s carried away by the no-account types on a city corner. A troubled corner, that would be, in a dangerous city. Yes, now for McGrady’s greatest trick: he does it in early-'70s Belfast, church-riven and bullet-riddled. It’s as if Flann O’Brien took his blarney to Stalingrad â€” and there held the armies spellbound." â€”John Domini, author of Earthquake I.D. and A Tomb on the Periphery
"With echoes of the distinctive humour and philosophical meditations inherited from a rich Irish literary legacy, The Backslideris an accomplished and deeply affecting novel, McGrady's observations on the nature of adolescence are powerful and provocative." â€”Ian Holding, author of Unfeeling: A Novel and Of Beasts and Beings