James McCloone, Jamie for short, is a forty-one year old bachelor who lives in a farm in the Irish countryside. Jamie, together with his sister, was abandoned as a baby by his mother at the door of an orphanage ruled by nuns. Jamie grew up abused both physically and sexually, and used as a child slave until he was adopted by Alice and Mick McCloone when he was about ten years old. Only then he knew kindness.
It's no wonder then that in middle age, Jamie is severely depressed and hasn't been able to connect at a deeper level with any woman. When the wife of a friend suggests that Jamie places an ad in the "lonely hearts" section of a newspaper, he does so and meets a kindred spirit, but with so much emotional baggage, will he find the happiness he deserves?
I really liked The Misremembered Man by Christina McKenna, but it was the saddest book I have read in a long while, though very well written.
The plot consists of two parallel stories: one with Jamie as an adult, the other describing his everyday life in the orphanage as a child. The part that takes place in the orphanage describes the excessive physical punishments Jamie and his mates endured, while the descriptions of the sexual abuse were implied, mere suggestions. I think is a wonder that with such a level of abuse Jamie grew up to be shy and depressed rather than a menace to his fellow beings. That kind of systematic abuse is a breeding ground for psychotic behavior later in life. Unfortunately as McKenna expresses at the end of the book, despite Jamie being a fictional character, this kind of abuse towards children by members of the Catholic clergy actually took place in Ireland until it was exposed in 1990.
Not everything that happens in The Misremembered Man is sad. The modern day part of the story was very funny and so realistic that anyone may have experienced similar situations at one point or another.
In summary, The Misremembered Man by Christina McKenna is a poignant story, bittersweet and tragic as only real life can be. You will laugh out loud and most certainly you will cry, but above all, the story and characters will haunt you.