The Guts by Roddy Doyle, review by Sarah Bagby
Booker Prize winner Roddy Doyle introduced readers to Jimmy Rabbitte in 1987 in his beloved book about the finest soul band in Dublin, The Commitments.
The Guts, Doyle’s new novel, portrays Jimmy in his 47th year. He is married, has four children, owns a successful online music site selling the records of obscure ‘80s Irish bands, and has been diagnosed with bowel cancer.
The book opens in an Irish pub. Over numerous glasses of beer Jimmy tells his father about the cancer. We feel the love and the fear of both men as they work through the sobering news.
As Jimmy navigates living with illness, Doyle shows us his failures and some moments of grace. Jimmy recklessly hooks up with a backup singer from back in the day—which could have been avoided had he not mis-sent some text messages.
In one of his better moments, he begrudgingly gives in to his son's wishes to test a new GPS. It’s cold in the wee hours of Christmas morning. Jimmy is coerced into wearing the new purple velour jumpsuit he was gifted by his wife. Following directions on the GPS, they turn left, and right and then left again. Jimmy is surprisingly warm in the track suit, and he laughs with his son, now trying to outsmart the voice in the machine. All feels right with the world.
The Guts is a tender testament to middle age told in a gritty Irish brogue that lures us into the minds of the characters as their voices permeate into our own.