THE SNAPPER, Roddy Doyle's second novel in the Barrytown trilogy, is about a middle-class family in Dublin trying to cope with an unexpected pregnancy of the 23-year old daughter, Sharon. Living up to his title as the virtuoso of casual, conversational dialogue; Doyle spins a masterful tale about the noisy Rabbitte family. They almost sound like the typical Filipino family—so bonded together that someone's business becomes everyone else's.
The novel begins with the jaw-dropping news of the pregnancy. Jimmy Sr.'s reaction is of forced casualness and nonchalance, as if it were simply the news of an inconsequential holiday coming up in two days. Veronica, Jimmy Sr.'s wife, doesn't quite know how to react—and understandably so. Naturally the question of who the father is comes up, and here's the rub: Sharon doesn't want anyone else to know who has gotten her pregnant. Was she raped? Was she extremely reckless that she did it with just anybody?
Just as we, the readers, begin to formulate our judgments, we are led to see that Sharon is the victim, the protagonist, the character whom we should support. Surely it couldn't have been her fault. We sympathize with her when we read of her suffering from anxiety, vomiting, urinary frequency, breast swelling, and general discomfort. The descriptions are, to a person who has never been and will never get pregnant, familiar yet distant, like my entire experience with reading Williams's Obstetrics. We rally behind her when she confronts the father of her child—a momentous event in our reading experience because a light bulb suddenly illuminates our understanding, and everything falls into place: "So that explains it."
Jimmy Sr.'s support behind her is heartwarming. Whereas other fathers would never speak to their daughters, Jimmy Sr. is so involved, even more worried, than Sharon, in her pregnancy. Sharon is never judged but encouraged. In this sense, the Rabbitte family stands as a good, though not perfect, example. Yet, from a Christian perspective, I wonder what should the response be, so let me process this well. There must be an acknowledgement that sex outside of marriage is a sin, a confession and asking for forgiveness from God, a resolve to carry on with the pregnancy up to term, a joyful celebration of the gift of life, and, to the family members, a gracious and serious commitment to show the same grace and mercy that God through Jesus Christ has demonstrated.
It is touching and moving to read of the Rabbitte family. We know nothing yet about what happens after the pregnancy, but we suspect that there must be rejoicing. The last pages of the novel have left me breathless—so good, so moving, I couldn't wait to get started on "The Van."