The Wacky Man isn’t mad he’s bad so don’t be fooled by this faintly cartoonish title as there is nothing slapstick about a story which highlights the shattering of family normality by an abusive father whose emotional meltdown has a life changing impact on those closest to him.
Irish nationalism and English xenophobia are the political and social seeds of inequality that drive the mental instability of Seamus; a schizophrenic character whose mood swings transform him from a charming raconteur in public to a fist wielding monster behind closed doors.
But it is the family tensions and the raw visceral emotions they generate that create a crackling, tangible fear; a feeling of frustrated anger and toxic hatred seeping out of his every pore, like a poison that corrodes everything it comes into contact with and leaves his wife and three children permanently damaged.
Lyn Farrell’s prose style hits an emotional nerve and makes the pain she describes almost audible. Amanda, the daughter and ultimate victim, becomes the focal point of this hatred and her pain develops a gruesome physicality as she tries to destroy the body she has learned to despise by plucking the hairs from her head to almost perversely make her father’s torments gain credence and transform herself into the ugly individual she has been made to feel like.
The powerful story matter makes you want to turn your eyes away at times but by drawing the reader into this dark void the author demonstrates her deep understanding of the psychology of abuse and how the warped mentality of the abuser is able to imbue a desperate fear into the minds of his victims.
Tommo and Jamie flee the nest as soon as they are able and leave the mother and daughter to sink into madness and depression as the memories of what they have lost and the inevitability of their dark future become too painful to bear.
The visit of the Pope to Manchester offers the prospect of symbolic salvation but this public show of collective faith offers only temporary salvation before a return to the oppression of a house without hope and a man whose actions are being more persistently investigated by the social services.
This is essentially a story of wasted lives laid bare by nothing less than domestic torture; a hidden crime that eventually numbs the emotions and quashes all hope and leaves those able to help apparently unable to confront the guilt it leaves in its wake.
The Wacky Man by Lyn G Farrell (Published by Legend Press. Price £8.99)
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