Reviews for Sin-Eater : A Breviary

Booklist Reviews 2011 November #1
Argyle is a sin eater, a kind of professional scapegoat among Celtic people, who consumes bread and beer over a corpse to remove the deceased's sins. Despite his Scottish name, bestowed by Lynch to honor his inspiration in a film of Robert Louis Stevenson's The Master of Ballantrae, Argyle is a County Clare man. He ranges the Loop Head peninsula ("the upper lip of the gaping mouth of the river Shannon," says Lynch), plying his meager trade (the standard fee for his service is six pence). Lynch reveals Argyle's travels, reflections, and human interactions in 24 poems of 24 lines of 9 to 12 syllables each that, given Lynch's (American) Irish musicality, dancingly allude to an iambic beat. With a Clare photo by Lynch's son Michael facing each poem, the sequence constitutes a witty and awe-inspiring meditation on the atmosphere, character (human and other), soul, and moral resonance of a place of dazzling natural beauty. Like an actual Christian breviary, it will reward many a rereading, with similar spiritual force. Copyright 2011 Booklist Reviews.