Strange occurrences in a rainy Irish valley are just the beginning

'The Good People' by Hannah Kent
'The Good People' by Hannah Kent
Courtesy of publisher

Every week, The Thread checks in with booksellers around the country about their favorite books of the moment. This week, we spoke with Vivienne Evans of Books & Books in Miami Beach, Fla.

Vivienne Evans has been a bookseller for more than 20 years — long enough that she now just calls herself a "book therapist."

Handselling books directly to customers is her lifelong passion, and she said she particularly loves young writers — those willing "to venture forth, go into those unknown hidden valleys and set something down in writing, because who knows where it's going to take them? Or the reader?"

Evans first fell for Hannah Kent's work in her first novel, "Burial Rites," which centers on a real-life execution that occurred in Iceland in the nineteenth century.

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When Kent's second novel came out, Evans was just as enamored.

"The Good People" is set in Ireland in the early part of the nineteenth century. "It's located in this rain-soaked, mud-filled, dark, hidden valley in the southwest of Ireland," Evans explained.

The story focuses on three women. The first is Nora, a woman overwhelmed by grief from the sudden death of her husband, and left to care for her 4-year-old grandson, who "for no apparent reason, suddenly stops talking and walking."

Enter Nance, the town shaman of sorts, who offers her services to Nora, and Mary Clifford, a 14-year-old girl who works for Nora.

"They're all in many ways outliers, they're outcasts in society," Evans said. "Between the three of them, they decide to come up with ways and means of trying to heal this child, all along conscious of the fact that there's something else out there. Something superstitious, something spiritual, something ill-defined, known in the local parlance as 'the good people' — like fairies."

Evans said Kent's novel is, like her first, loosely based on actual happenings. "The Good People" jumps off from an old account of strange happenings in "this peculiar valley, a very claustrophobic place."

The whole thing unspools amid tensions over "hard-held beliefs, superstitions, herbal remedies, all being pitted against a very shrouded Catholicism, which is embedded in the Irish psyche."

It's the story of "how those in desperate circumstances — and I mean desperate, desperate poverty, desperate weather, desperate situations — cling to the old bulwarks, the old beliefs, even though something inside of them knows it's going to work against them and continue to render them utterly powerless."

The Good People

The Good People