Hannah Kent first debuted on the literary scene with her award winning novel Burial Rites. Fans of her first novel will not be disappointed with her next novel The Good People. The idea for this novel was already forming as she was researching Burial Rites.
The Good People is based on fact and is set in the year 1825 in Killarney, Ireland. We first meet Nora Leahy and learn that her husband has just passed away, only a few short months after her daughter died, leaving Nora the sole care of Michael, her 4 year old grandson. Michael cannot walk or talk, although, Nora remembers a time when visiting her daughter when he was walking and learning to talk.
Nora keeps Michael hidden from most of her neighbours, afraid they will blame him for any grief that befalls the village. Without her husband, Nora finds Michael a burden to care for and so hires a 14 year old servant named Mary. Mary is a big help to Nora and although she too finds him burdensome, she forms a bond.
Mary hears the rumours about Michael, leaving Nora little choice but to seek help. Unable to afford a doctor, and then being told by the priest that nothing could be done, she engages the help of Nance Roche. Nance claims to have the ‘knowledge’ and consorts with ‘the Good People’ thus she will be able to return Michael to the boy he once was. Many people in the village are wary of Nance and her ways particularly after she was shunned by the local priest.
The three women embark on unorthodox methods and herbal treatments to cure Michael, leading to dire consequences. The depth of research Hannah has conducted for this novel is evident in the detail of the herbal concoctions and adds to the novel’s authenticity. In fact, each chapter is named after a particular herb. Hannah’s writing and indepth descriptions make for an engaging read.