The Gospel of Orla

The Gospel of Orla

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Eoghan Walls
*An Observer Books Summer 2023 recommendation* A stunning debut novel about family, faith, and loss by an acclaimed Northern Irish poet.

Fourteen-year-old Orla’s mum is dead. She lives in England with her unemployed father and baby sister Lily, but she’s planning to run away to live in Northern Ireland, where her mother is buried. Preoccupied with trouble at home and at school, she accidentally crashes her bike into a man who calls himself Jesus and says he is the Son of God. He has never seen a smartphone. He can raise animals from the dead by blowing into their mouths, including Orla’s cat Sneaky.

Orla convinces Jesus to come with her to Ireland to bring her mum back to life and she teaches him how to ride a bike to get there. But Jesus has plans of his own, and after one of his revivals goes horribly wrong, Orla must decide how far she is willing to go to save her mother. A hilarious coming-of-age story, road novel, and meditation on the mysteries of faith and grief, this debut novel heralds an important new voice in world literature.

“As coming-of-age stories go, The Gospel of Orla is winningly off-kilter. Walls refuses easy sentimentality, and the story is brisk and surprising, perfectly paced. . . . Walls’s marvelous novel asks what we might look for by way of consolation. A miracle shouldn’t be too much to ask.” —Claire Luchette, The New York Times Book Review
“By turns funny, surprising, moving. With a poet’s control and playfulness, it paints a convincing portrait of a teenagers grief and resilience." Niamh Donnelly, The Irish Times
"[A] weird and original tale." —Financial Times
"Although Orla longs to see her mother again, it is the girl herself who needs bringing back to life – something Walls manages in this poignant, hopeful, compelling little book that offers a window into a troubled teenage soul." —Susie Mesure, The Spectator

"The Gospel of Orla is written with immense control and precision so that the voice of the protagonist emerges as alive, individual and memorable. Eoghan Walls manages to make every single emotion Orla feels—every thought, response and action—utterly convincing and fresh and original."
— Colm Tóibín
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