In the midst of everything going lately, it’s surprising that I have found time to dive into a novel. But I started The Outside Boy by Jeanine Cummins is her debut novel from 2010 that follows a family of Irish travelers (gypsies as we Americans know them by) through some surprising revelations, as well as their interactions with “buffers” aka non-travelers. The book is narrated by Christopher Hurley, better know as Christy throughout the novel. Christy is a young boy in his band of family travelers, and yearns for more knowledge about his mother and where he comes from. His mother died in childbirth, and Christy, for as long as he can remember, has always know he’d only shared 7 minutes on earth with his mother before he passed. Christy’s father Christopher is a proud man, as most travelers are, and the family loves their freedom to roam the country and not be tied down to anything or any place.
As the family moves throughout Ireland, in search of new neighborhoods, work and a short place to settle at, they finally find a town that is semi-welcoming to them – and a place that accepts Christy and his cousin Martin to study for their Confirmation. Most “buffers” aren’t fond of travelers and there’s much tension between the two groups – as the buffers consider travelers a blight on the earth. Excited to finally be accepted at a school, Christy and Martin begin to settle in and enjoy the kindness they receive from most of the townsfolk.
They begin to make friends – Christy even forges a small love interest in the mysterious Finnuala Whippet – a young wealthy girl in his class, which makes Christy start to question what he wants in life. He begins to yearn for a permanent home, and more acceptance from buffers. He starts to find out more information on his mother, even down to the point where he launches an investigation after finding her picture in a newspaper clipping among his grandfather’s belongings. But as with most family tales, this one has many twists and turns – and definitely a deep family secret on what really happened to Christy’s mother and why his father refuses to tell the truth or talk to him about it.
Overall, I really enjoyed this novel. It was a little challenging at first to get past some of the verbiage used, as it’s based in Ireland, but overall it was an engaging, sweet story about a lonely boy trying to find out who he is and where his place in the world is.