I Have Heard You Calling in the Night

Not being a Catholic, I had no idea that the title of this slender memoir refers to a prayer spoken at a priest’s ordination and not, as I’d assumed, to the growling yaps of a lonesome Doberman heard by his likewise deprived master.

“I had unreal fears,” Thomas Healy states early on. It isn’t hard to imagine why. An alcoholic, a brawler, and an unembraced writer who, at age 39, still lives at home with his mum in blue-collar Glasgow would be gripped by any number of horrors. Fate smiles in the form of a Doberman pup the author impetuously buys once a producer options the rights to one of Healy’s (never filmed) short stories. The dog, in a role reversal not unknown to a few pet owners, takes the lead in caring for and nurturing the man.

Healy crafts sentences in spartan, elliptical prose: “We were all, those men and me, in a state of shock, this happening.” Too many of his pages are strung together vignettes that go nowhere. But the passages of his childhood memories are priceless, especially his recount of being desperate to join a kibbutz in Israel and his flailing efforts to convince a rabbi to let him “help to make the desert green.” And late in the book—when his mother suffers an incapacitating stroke—he’s very good at conveying a sense of aloneness, of rendering unsentimentally the negative space where family and friends once were. — NPT

Originally published in New York Press.