Night Boat to Tangier by Kevin Barry

5 stars

Once in the bluest of moons a book comes along that makes you want to call it a day—if you’re a writer, you feel unworthy of ever writing another word; if you’re a reader, you swear off other books for a while so as not to sour the aftertaste with lesser prose. Kevin Barry’s Night Boat to Tangier is that book.

A slim tome it may be, but Night Boat’s enchanting effect on your soul will linger long after the last word drifts out of Barry’s ethereal world of two aging smugglers waiting at the Spanish port of Algeciras. Waiting for what you might ask? Well that’s for the reader to say, and it may not be what the ostensible purpose is said to be.

Night Boat defies classification. A work of literary fiction, it is that for sure. But it’s also a mystery; a romance or, at least, an ode to lost loves and squandered opportunities; a late in life coming of age tale tinged with an immense sense of loss for might have been, and one of regret for what was. No matter how you label it, Night Boat is a magical read.

Kevin Barry delights with his Irish sensibilities and wit even in the darkest of circumstances. He has given us a melancholic, yet not morose, tale of two lifelong friends with axes to grind and long memories of joys shared long ago as they wait for the arrival of a daughter in a grimy ferry terminal.

Barry’s language is stellar not only in its poetic nature, but also in its precision to describe the emotional landscape of his characters in a way that hits the reader deep in the soul. Art does not supersede storytelling in Night Boat, however, and the reader is treated to a rollicking journey with a pair of unforgettable rogues.

To not read Night Boat would be criminal, and to read it one learns that criminals aren’t always what they seem.

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