By: Edward P. Cardillo
Publication Date: February 2011
Reviewed by: Ellen Feld
Review Date: April 2011
Connor Enright is a wild child. He gets in trouble constantly, drinks beer frequently, has a police record and won’t listen to his single mother, Heather. His younger brother Sean has ADD and spends all his time in his room playing video games. Heather, meanwhile, is overwhelmed, can’t handle her boys and brings a different male “friend” home practically every night. In short, this is a very dysfunctional family.
When Heather announces that they are going to visit her father in a nursing home, a father she hasn’t spoken to since before her kids were born, a father who is now dying of cancer, Connor balks. But when the teen realizes if he quickly agrees to the visit, his mother will let him go off with his friends for the evening, he acquiesces.
The next day, Heather and her two boys make their way to the nursing home. Connor wants nothing more than to greet his grandfather and make a hasty exit. When he meets Lingus, his grandfather, the boy is stunned at the nasty comments spewing from his mouth. The man is obnoxious and cruel. Connor attempts to one-up the old man with his own sharp bards but he quickly realizes that he is no match for his grandfather’s malicious words.
Reluctantly, Connor and Sean agree to listen to a story that Lingus insists on telling. At first, the tale, about an evil fairy in Ireland, seems silly to the kids, but as the story ends, Sean is intrigued and asks for more. Connor, hiding behind his rough image, scoffs at the story and leaves. But it isn’t long before Connor finds himself back at the nursing home, listening to another story.
The tales Lingus tells his grandson(s) grow darker and darker and each one carries a moral that slowly melts away the gruff exterior of Connor. Soon he is eager to visit his grandfather and the two develop a relationship that could almost be described as caring and nurturing. Will Lingus be able to bring the troubled teen around before it is too late?
The Odd Tales of an Old Man switches back and forth between the present day relationships between Lingus, his grandsons and Heather and the tales that Lingus tells. The stories were all interesting and there was always a hint that the tales might just be true. When Lingus shows the kids some medals he won in WWII, and then recounts the story of a German sharpshooter during the war and the soldier who brought him down, Connor wonders if perhaps the US soldier might be Lingus, or perhaps one of his friends. But when the ailing man tells the story of a monster who has sworn to aid a schoolboy, and the tale takes some grisly turns, Connor is sure it is fiction. But is it really? As mentioned, each tale has a moral that Lingus and Connor discuss, but that last tale about a monster? Watch out!
I found myself very interested in the fate of Connor and if he would be able to turn his life around. The stories too, were intriguing and quite varied and I enjoyed reading each. I did find, however, that as the book progressed, the stories get longer and longer and seemed to overpower the story of Lingus and his family. Indeed, there was less and less about Connor and he seemed to begin his transformation from a hardened teen to a gentler soul a bit too easily. Heather and her boys, too, changed their interactions with each other quite easily with a simple suggestion from Lingus which seemed a bit unrealistic after all those years of quarrelling. However, the end of the book had an unexpected and eerie twist that will make the reader wonder about all the stories Lingus told.
Quill says: A fun book that offers a unique take on how to get through to a troubled teen.