Not a lot happens in The Green Road, it being a novel about relationships and the consequences of upbringing on the choices made later in life. Enright zooms in on the choices the four children of mother Rosaleen make as grown-ups. Let me start by saying that I especially liked the novel when Enright zoomed in on their family relationships by focussing on small daily things. Enright excels in the description of the small, of the apparently unimportant. In those chapters two of the four children encounter world problems on a world wide scale Enright retorts to platitudes, it is just not her strong feature. In those chapters she focusses on the daily occurrences Enright excels, showing effortlessly that a difficult relationship between mother and child is in the daily jibes, the daily comments, the daily acts of defiance. Enright makes her reader feel uncomfortable on three levels: whilst reading about the small things that contribute to a difficult relationship, by making her reader wonder ‘what’s the fuss, what are these children complaining about? She is just an ordinary mum!’ (realizing that the same probably goes for you and your mum) and finally by showing that a grown-up should no longer blame a parent for things going not right in their lives. There comes a time that you have to accept your own role and responsibility. Rosaleen’s children unfortunately are lacking in that aspect. They flee their parental home and never ask themselves ‘how did I contribute to my difficult relationship with my mother?’. As I said, Enright choses to have sons Dan en Emmett move to far away countries in Africa and Asia and live through worldwide problems (AIDS). The descriptions of their lives abroad are not the strongest chapters in the novel, those are the ones taking place in the parental Irish home.
Enright does not manage to maintain quality throughout The Green Road: at times the novel is brilliant, at times just so so. A pity. Enright could have maintained quality throughout the novel if she had managed to keep the world wide affairs small as well.