Review: The Good Son by Paul McVeigh

Young Mickey Donnelly is unpopular in his neighborhood.  He may have a dog called Killer and is in love with the girl next door, but he’s smart, his best friend is his sister Wee Maggie and he’d do anything for his Ma. Mickey wants nothing more than to go to America and get his Ma and Wee Maggie out of Belfast and away from his Da. Mickey is a good son, but maybe that means being a bad boy sometimes.


I bought this as a “Blind date with a book” kind of thing, and I don’t regret it. The Good Son is set in Belfast during the Troubles, in fact it starts with the line “I was born the day the Troubles started.” and it’s told by Mickey. This means the narrative voice can be a little childish,  but I think that is the strength of it. It’s easy to get into politics in a book set in a time and place like this, and there’s certainly traces of politics in it, but overall The Good Son avoids judgement and focusses on what life during the Troubles was like, and the IRA appears just as naturally as the average worries of a boy in his last summer before entering a secondary school he doesn’t want to go to.

MCveigh crafts a great tale about growing up and trying to find your own way even under the pressures of society. His main character and narrator read honest and realisitic, and doesn’t underestimate kids and how perceptive they are. Mickey is a warm-hearted boy who may not understand everything that’s going on around him, but he definitely understands more than even his own mother thinks he does.

The Good Son is a hopeful and sweet book that doesn’t shy away from harsh realities and reads as honest as you could wish.

Rating: ★★★1/2☆☆ (3 1/2 Stars)

Additional Information


Publication Date: 15 April 2015
Publisher: Salt Publishing
Format: Paperback
Page Count: 234
Genre: Fiction
ISBN: 1784630233


Winner of The Polari Prize
Chosen for World Book Night 2017
Chosen as City Reads Brighton 2016
Shortlisted for The Authors’ Club Best First Novel Award 2016
Finalist for The People’s Book Prize 2016
Shortlisted for The Guardian’s Not The Booker Prize 2015
ELLE Magazine Best Books of 2015
Irish Independent Books of the Year
Wales Arts Review Best of 2015
The Reading Agency Staff Picks Best of 2015
Gransnet Christmas Pick 2015
Book of The Month: The Tablet, BBC Radio, Ulster Tatler
Longlisted for the Waverton Good Read Award

Mickey Donnelly is smart, which isn’t a good thing in his part of town. Despite having a dog called Killer and being in love with the girl next door, everyone calls him ‘gay’. It doesn’t help that his best friend is his little sister, Wee Maggie, and that everyone knows he loves his Ma more than anything in the world. He doesn’t think much of his older brother Paddy and really doesn’t like his Da. He dreams of going to America, taking Wee Maggie and Ma with him, to get them away from Belfast and Da. Mickey realises it’s all down to him. He has to protect Ma from herself. And sometimes, you have to be a bad boy to be a good son.

The Good Son has been called ‘outstanding’ by Toby Litt, ‘a work of genius’ by Pulitzer Prize-winning Robert Olen Butler and McVeigh ‘a wildly important new talent’ by Laura van den Berg who Salon calls ‘the best young writer in America’.



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