Grove Press
Grove Press
Grove Press

Wild Houses

by Colin Barrett

The riotous, raucous and deeply resonant debut novel from “one of the best story writers in the English language today” (Financial TimesWild Houses follows two outsiders caught in the crosshairs of a small-town revenge kidnapping gone awry

  • Imprint Grove Hardcover
  • Page Count 272
  • Publication Date March 12, 2024
  • ISBN-13 978-0-8021-6094-2
  • Dimensions 5.5" x 8.25"
  • US List Price $27.00
  • Imprint Grove Hardcover
  • Publication Date March 19, 2024
  • ISBN-13 978-0-8021-6095-9
  • US List Price $27.00

With his acclaimed and award-winning collections Young Skins and Homesickness Colin Barrett cemented his reputation as one of contemporary Irish literature’s most daring stylists. Praised by the Oprah Daily as “a doyen of the sentence,” and by the Los Angeles Times as a writer of “unique genius,” Barrett now expands his canvas with a debut novel that contains as much grit, plot, and linguistic energy as any of his celebrated short stories.

As Ballina prepares for its biggest weekend of the year, introspective loner Dev answers his door on Friday night to find Doll English— younger brother of small-time local dealer Cillian English—bruised and in the clutches of Gabe and Sketch Ferdia, County Mayo’s fraternal enforcers and Dev’s cousins. Dev’s quiet homelife is upturned as he is quickly and unwillingly drawn headlong into the Ferdias’ frenetic revenge plot against Cillian. Meanwhile, Doll’s girlfriend, seventeen-year-old Nicky, reeling from a fractious Friday and plagued by ghosts and tragedy of her own, sets out on a feverish mission to save Doll, even as she questions her future in Ballina.

Set against Barrett’s trademark depictions of small town Irish life, Wild Houses is thrillingly-told story of two outsiders striving to find themselves as their worlds collapse in chaos and violence.

Tags Literary

Praise for Wild Houses:

The Observer 10 Best New Novelists of the Year

“Barrett’s dialogue, spiked with the timbre of Irish speech and shards of local slang, makes these characters sound so close you’ll be wiping their spittle off your face . . . Despite moments of violence that tear through the plot, the most arresting scenes are those of anticipated brutality, perfectly drawn vignettes that capture the lives of people caught in this deadly trade . . . Clearly, those years of writing short stories have given Barrett an appreciation for how fit every sentence must be; there isn’t a slacker in this trim book. Even the asides and flashbacks hurtle the whole project forward toward a climax that feels equally tensile and poignant, like some strange cloak woven from wire and wool.”—Ron Charles, Washington Post

“A heartbreaker of a debut novel . . . Nicky — and her quest — is the soul of this fine novel. In Colin Barrett’s nimble hands . . . the lives of a small collective of mournful souls become vibrant before us, and their yearning is depicted with wistfulness, no small amount of humor and one dangerously ill-tempered goat.”—Dennis Lehane, New York Times Book Review

“[A] short, deftly written novel . . . The kidnapping serves as a binding device, bringing together a small, carefully drawn cast of characters under unusual, high-pressure circumstances . . . The release of that pressure is sometimes violent, but it is also revelatory.”—New Yorker

“Barrett soars into the tier of Kevin Barry and Sally Rooney, both influences, but his grim yet tender vision of humanity distinguishes his tale . . . Wild Houses is akin to a Yo-Yo Ma concert at Carnegie Hall: Barrett’s pitch is perfect, the acoustics divine. He metes out his dialogue in syncopated bits, reminiscent of Barry but less slapstick. While a cheeky humor thrums throughout the novel, Barrett isn’t particularly interested in redemption or even plain decency . . .  Unfurls like a controlled detonation, rich with wonder and catharsis.”—Hamilton Cain, Minneapolis Star Tribune

“Acclaimed as a master of the short story, Irish writer Colin Barrett revisits his native County Mayo as the setting for his debut novel, Wild Houses. Here he demonstrates his great range by breathing life into an ensemble cast of characters, all of whom in one way or another are fighting the old Irish demons of “introversion and melancholy’ . . .  Colin Barrett has produced a truly compelling debut.”—Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

“Memorable, character driven, and distinguished by the author’s beautiful style . . . This carefully plotted novel, with its superbly realized Irish setting, is a generous gift to readers.”—Booklist (starred review)

“In this adroit debut novel, several already unbalanced characters from a small town in the west of Ireland find their lives thrown into disarray by an ill-conceived kidnapping . . . focusing on one fraught weekend, Barrett takes the time to let the reader get to know the characters involved in this mess in all their complicated and sometimes heartbreaking glory . . . A pointed and poignant commentary on life on the edges in rural Ireland.”—Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

“A remarkably resonant portrait of everyday lives in Ireland. Barrett’s gritty and raucous first novel features the hallmarks of his acclaimed short story collections Homesickness (a New York Times Best Book) and Young Skins: linguistic dexterity in the service of fully realized characters and vivid depictions of hard-scrabble small-town Irish life.”—Library Journal

“A brisk, engaging tale of a small group of dubious characters who’d be at home in one of Martin McDonagh’s darkly comic films . . . There’s pure pleasure in reading Barrett’s crisp prose . . . But what ultimately elevates the novel is Barrett’s ability to blend an unsparing eye with genuine empathy for some superficially unappealing characters readers nonetheless end up caring about, even as they recognize their profound flaws . . . the fact that he’s only at the beginning of his career is reason for celebration.”—Shelf Awareness

“One of the best writers working today . . . His prose is a delight from the first page.”—inews.co.uk

“This strange and beautiful novel brings to life an entire world. Wild Houses is a book not just to read but to live inside.”—Sally Rooney

“Irish writing is on fire and full of ballsy young upstarts like Barrett. This dark, raucous debut novel is about two outsiders who get caught up in a kidnapping in small-town Ireland. Expect drugs, wild parties and revenge, as well as rich language and vibrant characters.”—Sunday Times

“Ever since Barrett’s short-story collection Young Skins appeared in 2014, the publishing world has been awaiting his novel. Edgy and sharp, it’s a tale of a kidnap and small-time drug dealers in County Mayo. Sally Rooney and Anne Enright are fans, which tells you something.”—Financial Times

“Another year, another rush of novels by hot Irish talent. Barrett has already produced two rapturously received short story collections. This, his debut novel, centres on the kidnapping of a teenage boy in a west Ireland town, before spooling outwards to explore its impact on those who know him. His short stories prove Barrett knows how to craft a beautiful sentence that simmers with impending violence. This nastily slow-burn chiller is shaping up to be one of the novels of the year.”—Daily Mail

“The Irish writer Colin Barrett specialises in criminals, but not criminals as you know them. These are the small-town crooks of Co Mayo who shuffle around in Crocs and eat Coco Pops. They are loners who tend to Zen rock gardens and dress their hostages in Nirvana T-shirts . . . Wild Houses is Barrett’s first novel but his writing has been gathering acclaim for the past decade. Anne Enright, Colm Tóibín and Sally Rooney have lavished praise on his short story collections Young Skins (2014) and Homesickness (2022), which reveal a keen eye—and ear—for the absurd and a talent for capturing misfits and malcontents. He explores the blackly comic potential of criminal behaviour: the eccentric etiquette of gangsters, the fine line between the bizarre and the banal, the way humour can give way to horror . . . [Wild Houses] is a thrillingly moreish novel with some of the sharpest dialogue I’ve read in any recent debut and characters who held me captive until the very last page.”—Johanna Thomas-Corr, The Times (UK)

“When reading Barrett, one is immediately struck by a sensation best described as relief: the realisation that one is in safe hands here; this is a writer of glaringly obvious talent, operating at a seriously high level. In Wild Houses we see for the first time Barrett’s evident abilities playing themselves out across the wider horizons of the novel form.’—Keiran Goddard, The Guardian (UK)

“Colin Barrett’s debut novel unfolds . . . with thrillerish intensity. Alternating between Dev’s and Nicky’s close-third-person viewpoints, the narrative on the one hand advances the relationships between the hostage and hostage-takers and on the other dramatizes the increasingly frantic attempts of Doll’s loved ones to find and save him. Barrett has tried out the crime genre before . . . but never at this length, and he expertly handles the combination of narrative-driving dialogue, exhilarating action scenes and quieter moments designed to build tension.”—George Cochrane, The Times Literary Supplement (UK)

Wild Houses realises life in full and without pity. Violence is undercut with idiosyncratic humour: the small-time criminal with a Zen garden to clear his head, or the Ferdia brother managing a heroin addiction (“a dedicated feat to pull off this far out in the sticks”). A palpable sense of human eccentricity, and endurance, is always there, just beneath the surface.”—Catherine Lough, The Telegraph (UK)

“Another much-anticipated Irish debut is Colin Barrett’s raucous Wild Houses, about two unfortunate recluses who are dragged into the surreal and violent underbelly of their small town.”—I-D

“A humour-inflected revenge fantasy involving interactions between dealers, enforcers and various other locals in a small Irish town.”—Globe and Mail

“Vivid, controlled, very funny, and very moving –Barrett has the kind of pure writing chops that are vanishingly rare.”—Kevin Barry

“Colin Barrett quietly, insistently, writes so deeply into his characters you could reach out and touch them. Wild Houses is a gift of true storytelling and Barrett’s talent burns up the page.”—Anne Enright

“Wild Houses is swift, tender, and honest. It’s been a long time since I’ve been so worried, so heartbroken, so moved by a set of funny misfits. Barrett is one of our keenest observers of the miraculous amid the everyday and of the uncommon beauty of common things, the power of attention. When I finished this novel, I desperately wanted to call Dev, Doll, or Nicky, just to see if they were okay, to see if everything had turned out alright. A brilliant novel.”— Brandon Taylor

Wild Houses has a rare momentum that comes from the rhythms of the sentences, the vivid descriptions and the brilliantly chosen details. The momentum emerges also from the depth and complexity of the main characters and the wide sweep of the narrative. In a small town in the west of Ireland over a few days, a whole world, memorable and edgy, is captured for the reader.”—Colm Tóibín

“Vivid and wild, funny and chilling—Wild Houses is the business.”—Roddy Doyle

“Colin Barrett proved with his short stories that he’s not only one of the most stylistically gifted writers working now, but also one of the most generous. His first novel, Wild Houses, is deft, intricate, unique — restorative in its refusal to be anything but itself. He is a talent of the rarest kind.”—Nicole Flattery

“Colin Barrett made us wait for this one, and it was worth it. Sharp and affecting, expansive and playful, Barrett has written a gorgeous novel filled with gorgeous sentences. A dream to read, and no doubt destined to be one of the novels of the year.”—Michael Magee, author of Close to Home

Praise for Colin Barrett:

“[Barrett] writes what he knows, but he also writes to discover what he doesn’t know, a simple but crucial distinction you can sense instinctively, no matter how many of his compatriots you’ve already read.”—Los Angeles Times

“Exact and poetic . . . One sign of [Barrett’s] striking maturity as a writer is that his characters stay in character . . . Mr. Barrett does foundational things exceedingly well—structure, choices of (and switches in) perspective—without drawing attention to them . . . His judgment is better than authoritative; it is imaginative and enlarging.”—New York Times

“Superb . . . There is an utterness to his attention, a devotion to the lives of his characters, that shifts the work into some more lasting place. Barrett is already one of the leading writers of the Irish short story, which is to braggingly say, one of the leading writers of the short story anywhere. He means every word and regrets every word. He just kills it.”—Guardian

“Barrett’s voice, though bolstered by Irish tradition, is entirely his own.”—New Yorker

“Many a writer claims mastery of technique, but few deliver at the level of Colin Barrett, whose roving perspectives, lopped-off endings and Kevin Barry-esque dialogue dazzle . . . Barrett is a doyen of the sentence; each snaps and sings like a bullwhip.”—Oprah Daily

“No matter how grim a given scene by Barrett can get, it’s a thrill to be alive to hear him.”—Paris Review

“Barrett proves that writing what you know can yield subversive and innovative results.”—Bustle

“Barrett simply out-writes many of his peers with a chilling confidence that suggests there is far more beneath the surface than merely the viciously effective black humour.”—Irish Times

“Mesmerizingly powerful . . . I’ve learned so much from Colin Barrett’s work as a reader and writer.”—Sally Rooney

“Colin Barrett, like all great storytellers, has the ability to weave a broader chronicle of Ireland out of stories that remain intimate, powerful and regional. Out of the local, the universal appears. He defines the many shades of the present time and suggests a compelling future. He is a writer to savour and look out for.”—Colum McCann

“Language, structure, style — Colin Barrett has all the weapons at his disposal.”—Kevin Barry

“No story writer at work today thrills me more than Colin Barrett, whose characters feel immediately so familiar and true in their capacity to maim and love.”—Brandon Taylor