Format Paperback
Publication Date 09/05/17
ISBN 9781681775043
Trim Size / Pages 8.2 x 5.6 in / 400

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A Son Called Gabriel

A Novel

Damian McNicholl

A beautiful and deeply felt coming-of-age novel that follows one young man’s struggles with family secrets and the mysteries of his own heart in 1960s Northern Ireland.

Gabriel Harkin is the eldest of four children in a working-class family in 1960s Northern Ireland, struggling through a loving, if often brutal, childhood. In the staunchly Catholic community to which Gabriel belongs, the strict rules for belief and behavior are clear. But his upbringing is marked by constant bullying by peers who prey on his gentle nature and the constant battle to earn the love and respect of his father. Even as he strives to be the perfect picture of young Irish boyhood, he is undermined at every turn by his true feelings.

As political clashes and violence take place across the country, Gabriel must face his own inner turmoil. He begins to suspect that he's not like other boys, and tries desperately to lock away his feelings—and his fears—even as he explores his burgeoning sexuality. Beyond his own struggle is a family secret that remains veiled, something with the power to rock Gabriel’s already fragile understanding of his identity. And as Gabriel confronts the confusion and isolation that have come to mark his adolescence, he also learns that secrets, no matter how badly some may want them buried, have a way of coming to light.

Evoking a sense of time and place as compelling as Angela’s Ashes and At Swim, Two Birds, Damian McNicholl's A Son Called Gabriel is a deeply felt and often funny coming-of-age novel that heralded the arrival of a striking new literary voice

Damian McNicholl was born and raised in Northern Ireland and worked as an attorney in New York City. His critically acclaimed first novel, A Son Called Gabriel, won awards and recognition, including an ABA Booksense Pick, a Foreword Magazine Book of the Year Finalist, and a Lambda Literary Awards finalist in the debut novel category. He lives in Pennsylvania. Visit him at

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Endorsements & Reviews

“Gabriel’s first-person narrative has an endearing frankness and intimate charm.” The New York Times Book Review
“Amiable debut about a young man's coming of age in 1970s Northern Ireland. McNicholl writes in an easygoing, natural tone that's neither manipulative nor sentimental and succeeds in conveying the real innocence of childhood as it invades maturity.” Kirkus Reviews
“A fine, compassionate coming-of-age story. McNicholl is a graceful writer, and his is a worthy debut.” Publishers Weekly
“Vivid and affecting. McNicholl maintains a steady hand, conveying his protagonist’s fears and passions in straightforward, unadorned prose. Rich in character, detail, and incident, the book successfully transports the reader to a specific time and place but one with universal implications about finding one’s role in the world.” The Huffington Post
“A touching portrait of one boy's hopes and fears.” Booklist
“In the 1960s and 1970s the rural North of Ireland is transforming rapidly, and the changes unfolding within young Gabriel Harkin are no less dramatic. Immersed in a fractious extended family with a secret to keep, Gabriel must navigate the ever shifting allegiances to self and family, faith and doctrine. McNicholl’s fast paced, vivid novel chronicles the coming of age of a boy who must endure an often violent world as he makes his way ever closer to the truth about himself and the truth of love.” Rachel Basch, author of 'The Listener'
“McNicholl is a fine storyteller and, in Gabriel, he has created a convincing, complicated and likable main character.”
“Each character, from Gabriel's girlfriend to his youngest sister, is so vividly portrayed that their world is all-encompassing, and it becomes almost heartbreaking to say goodbye.” Foreword Magazine