The narrator and title character of this story, 10-year-old Patrick Clarke, is a fairly typical Irish boy. He runs with a pack of boys, playing football and finding ample opportunities for mischief. He tolerates his younger brother Francis (nicknamed Sinbad), and barely pays attention to his younger sisters. Adults -- teachers, friends' parents, and his own parents -- are mysterious creatures. He understands little about the adult world, and cares little about it as well. That is, until the small cracks in his family structure widen into fissures, and then chasms. As the oldest child, Patrick assumes responsibility for maintaining a cohesive family environment, and believes he can influence and redirect the growing emotional tension between his parents.
For the first two-thirds of this book, Roddy Doyle places the reader right in the middle of Patrick and his friends, experiencing their hijinks, and seeing the world through their eyes. I found myself reliving my own childhood, when my friends & I explored the woods behind my house, and speculated (quite erroneously) about the actions of our neighbors. And then, Patrick becomes aware that his mother and father are not getting along. He doesn't understand why, and tries desperately to correct the situation. Because the story is told entirely from Patrick's point of view, many questions go unanswered and the reader is left similarly powerless. Doyle's technique was quite effective; I desperately wanted to take Patrick aside, explain what was happening in his life, and give him a big hug. This was a touching, poignant story. ( )