I’m going to tell a little story before I review Harper Fox’s Scrap Metal for you. It’ll be relevant, maybe, or maybe the whole post will be a series of seemingly random asides. You can skip the whole thing if you want, but whatever else you do, you really should read Scrap MetalI’m patiently biding my time before allowing myself to start reading it again.

That link goes to her site, but…this link will take you to Amazon (US). I assume it’s available elsewhere as well, but you might have to hunt for it.

So. Here’s the story.

I’m Irish. No. I’m Irish-American. Specifically, I’m third- and fourth generation Irish in America, depending on which branch of the family you’re tracing back. I lived in Ireland for exactly a year after I graduated from college, and it was grand, yes, and also incredibly challenging. (I envied the friends who’d studied abroad, living situations all pre-arranged, no job hunting, no immigration office workers to contend with.)

(I worked at Supermac’s. Yeppers. Those of you who know what I’m talking about are amused right now. Everyone else, picture McDonalds, only with a white and red color scheme. And snackboxes.)

None of that’s actually relevant. Here’s the real story.

My cousin Donal died recently. A few months ago. And it’s still shocking to me, because I don’t live near him. To me, right now, and maybe forever, Donal is sitting in his chair in his house, the house where he was born, the house where my great-grandfather was born, thinking about the work that needs to be done and if Cork County Council would get around to fixing the roof before it got too cold.

Donal, years and years ago, was a promising young man working in v business in Cork City. Then some combination of events transpired and Donal–oldest son–moved back home. By the time i met him, he was quite the fixture. He was the guy you’d ring up if you wanted to know the answer to 12 across in the Sunday Times cryptic crossword. Or if you wanted to know whatever happened to, oh, you know who I’m talking about, Maire Donnelly’s youngest, the one who went to university in Galway but something happened (maybe you’ll remember what it was, Donal, I’m sure i don’t), and he ended up visiting with his brother in Dublin for six months doing God alone knows what.

Honestly, Donal was old and frequently unwell, but i was unprepared for his death. He should have, by all rights, lived forever in his drafty house in Eyeries. In any case, I’ve a book review to write.

Scrap Metal is the story of a young man helping his grandfather on the family farm. It’s a romance novel by merit of having as one of its arteries a love affair between two young men, but it’s also the bone-deep story ofa family’s relationship to land, and the impact that had on identity. It’s a love letter to difficult grandfathers and an apology to the many lives we might have lived, while never undercutting the one we choose.

Words cannot describe how fucking much i loved this book. For a day and a half i lived with Nichol and Cam on an island off the coast of Scotland so vividly dream i could feel the chill damp on my skin and taste the sea with every breath. It was perfectly paced, and ended, bravely, with a realistic lack of perfect resolution for one of the characters. I love this. It’s so damn tempting to wrap up stories on neat bows, and yet even when we get the outcome we dated not hope for, sometimes we’re still left feeling not quite sure.

I’m counting the days before i can justify rereading Scrap Metal. I loved the hard bits and the sweet bits. It was marvelous. You should read it. Like now. I have it on kindle if anyone wants