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Rural Ireland in the late 1980s and, stuck in a rut in a small unnamed village, are sixteen-year-old cousins Laura and Kevin. The close cousins and constant companions ache to abscond to somewhere bigger, better, more exciting, where they are free to do what they want to do, free to become who they really are.

But things are holding them back. As well as having to cope with family tragedies, the troubled, music-obsessed teens must also negotiate the tricky terrain of burgeoning sexuality, the pitfalls of adolescence, and issues of homosexuality that seem, confusingly, to impinge upon them.

And then there is Laura’s own serious affliction, epilepsy, which comes and goes when she least expects it. Only cousin Kevin knows how to handle this tricky situation, or handle her: with gentleness, with sympathy, and with maybe just a little too much in the way of love and affection.

The months and the spiraling family crises serve only to bring them closer together: but how close is too close?

And then there is the strange matter of the nearby pond: this small body of water keeps drawing them near. Laura is convinced that something lurks down there, but Kevin eschews, putting it all down to the psychological trauma she is going through. Are they prepared for whatever secrets might come bubbling to the surface, monsters real or imagined that could come rising from the depths?

Colin O’Sullivan returns to a familiar (and formative) Irish setting with this punchy novel that grows in pace page by page. 1980s references abound, not only with music giants of the time, Boy George, Madonna et al, but also the politics of Gorbachev and Reagan, literal and figurative walls that are about to be torn down and imminent societal changes. Although rooted in the past, this fraught and frantic work is startlingly relevant and makes us consider today’s current affairs.

About Colin O’Sullivan