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IN BRIEF

Fiction

March 15, 1992|CHRIS GOODRICH

THE RUN OF THE COUNTRY by Shane Connaughton (St. Martin's Press: $17.95; 224 pp.). "The land destroyed you or held you. Forever." That's a line from this first novel by Shane Connaughton, co-author of the screenplay for the film "My Left Foot," and although the author is describing an all-preserving peat bog, the reference to Ireland itself ("the old sow that ate her farrow," in the words of Joyce's Stephen Dedalus) is unmistakable. The strength of "The Run of the Country" is Connaughton's setting--a town in the Republic a stone's throw from Northern Ireland--and his rich, lyrical language; its weakness is the standard coming-of-age theme, exceptional mainly for a surfeit of death and blood. Connaughton's nameless teen-age hero leaves his bullying father's home after the death of his mother, and immediately falls into all sorts of roguish exploits with the devil-may-care Prunty: smuggling, cock-fighting, gang rumbling, impersonation (of a priest, no less). Prunty warns his friend to limit love affairs to "widders"--"Single ones you couldn't get their drawers off with a can-opener," Prunty says--but the boy falls in love with the beautiful Annagh Lee . . . who enables him, naturally, to make peace with both his father and Ireland, if only by leaving them.

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