The narrator of this harrowing and hilarious novel is Wil Carson, a former Protestant ex-thug from Northern Ireland. Wils adolescent hatred of Catholics is inherited from his bigoted father, but his sardonic twist on life as a no-hoper from the Backstreets of East Belfast is all his own. When the opportunity of a lifetime arisesa chance to travel to America as part of a church-sponsored peace projectWil decides to swallow his prejudices and go along with the program. But his goodwill only goes so far, and a series of tragi-comic events lands him in a Wisconsin penitentiary. Wils stint behind bars leaves him plenty of time to review his past deeds, ponder the choices hes made, and reflect on a life of mixed blessings and curses. The Rainbow Singer offers a unique slant on Northern Irelands ethnic strife as well as an utterly original and distinct new voice in fiction.
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Simon Kerr was born in Belfast in 1971 and lives there today. He was awarded the Brian Moore Short Story Award and holds an MFA from Bath Spa University. He is currently at work on his second novel.From Publishers Weekly:
The centuries-old resentments of Northern Ireland are viewed through teenage eyes in this intriguing, though ultimately limited, first novel by Belfast-born Kerr. Wil Carson is a self-described "no-hoper" who, by age 14, has joined a Protestant gang terrorizing Catholics in his native East Belfast. Circumstances give Wil a new chance in the form of Project Ulster, a month-long trip to Wisconsin with 10 Catholics and nine other Protestants to help them learn how to achieve reconciliation. He travels to Milwaukee, where he's placed in the care of a Presbyterian minister and his family. Wil is more interested in girls than in the project's larger aims and enjoys thrilling his American host brother, Derry, with tales of his Belfast mayhem. When Wil is rejected by Teresa, a Catholic, his learned behavior violence quickly kicks in, and he sets about sabotaging the project in ever escalating ways. Wil renders his take in a rich Northern Irish accent ("I got a right slap around the gob") that gives his voice character, though he lacks the level of insight of Holden Caulfield and other coming-of-age heroes. That Wil narrates this tale from prison, serving a life sentence for murder, is meant to serve as foreshadowing but it lessens the suspense, since we know from the outset that Wil won't transcend his violent conditioning. For all its attempts to get inside Wil's mind, the narrative doesn't really explain why a 14-year-old boy would resort to a killing spree. Then again, what can? National print advertising; online marketing and publicity.
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