The Spinning Heart by Donal Ryan is a beautiful metaphor about what happens when it all goes wrong all of the time in this depressing little town. It could be anywhere actually but it is in Ireland as we are told. It takes place in a town that was doing well then it wasn’t. There was a building boom and everyone was working and making money then it went bust and everyone was broke and it all fell apart around them. The inhabitants of this disintegrating town tell the story to us. We hear the stories from different vantages and points of view and learn a little bit more from each view as we slowly see the whole bloody mess before us, the squalor, the madness, the pain. The men who are suddenly out of work, useless, drunk, and broke. The women who are commodities, get raped, become mothers, and eventually wrinkle and are forgotten and neglected. I found it a tale of honesty told with an Irish accent and as beautifully told as a story like this can be told. The spinning heart is a piece of metal that hangs on a gate door and needs to be scraped, repainted, and oiled as the wind has its way with this ornament that is the metaphor for each of the inhabitants of this village that clings to whatever love each can find in the moment. We learn about their individual hearts that are broken, ripped out, massaged, and left spinning.
The hub of this spoke is Bobby Mahon. He tells the first tale followed by the rest of the inhabitants. Bobby figures in each of their tales and on similar events of building and this one particular day. A modern day Ulysses one might think. Some want to be Bobby, some admire Bobby, some despise Bobby, Bobby is a little like Richard Cory, just not rich. We learn about Bobby from the point of view of his neighbors. The Spinning Heart is the Ballad of Bobby Mahon and is about what matters, Love.