And yet, as you will learn in these slightly less fragile pages, I was happy with my calling. I was a good paperboy. I delivered.
Okay, so the absolute best thing about Paperboy is that Macaulay is hilarious. I can't remember the last time a book made me laugh out loud so often. For this reader, humor is hard to hit spot on in a book. Many authors, I find I don't quite get their sense of humor or their efforts seem forced. Not so in this case. Macaulay's humor easily encompasses both the laughable foibles of his young career as a paperboy as well as the decidedly more serious points of living in a dangerously divided Belfast during the seventies. The easy hilarity in the stories of young Tony jumping fences in his coin-stuffed platforms and parallels to achieve paperboy seniority, waiting for the last guitar lesson of the night behind a girl whose parents were hoping for her to be the next Tammy Wynette (thereafter referred to as "Pammy Wynette"), and kicking a member of the Bay City Rollers as the only "manly" way of expressing appreciation for the band is the stuff laughing out loud is made of. Still extra giggles are reserved for the low income things that shouldn't be funny but are - like all the home improvement projects completed by his dad with supplies he "borrowed" from the foundry where he works and the many would-be affordable things purchased for a weekly fee from the Great Universal Club Book.
Paperboy is an appealing book that's more about Macaulay's youth and career as a paperboy than it is about the Troubles that plagued the city of his childhood. That it deals with the Troubles as more of a sideline ever-present reality in young Tony's life rather than as a focus is more a blessing than a curse. Macaulay does a fantastic job of capturing his own childlike perspective in that he's learned to live with being searched for weapons when entering a store, expecting that milk bottles will soon become petrol bombs, and not being able to get home because paramilitaries are bombing buses and have vandalized every phone booth for a couple miles.
I sometimes looked through the employment pages to see what I might do when I graduated from newspaper delivery, but there was never anything. Then I noticed that there were always more death notices than job advertisements in the Belfast Telegraph, so I came to the comforting conclusion that by the time I was eighteen years old, enough people would have died for me to get one of their jobs.
The downside to dealing with the Troubles on the side, of course, is that if readers go into the book mostly ignorant of the conflicts driving the Troubles, they might well emerge similarly ignorant. Macaulay scores some points for how he successfully immerses readers in his life in 1970s Northern Ireland, but doing so perhaps assumes that readers understand more about recent Irish history than they do, and the conflict, which is probably more or less bewildering to people in the know is mind-boggling to the more ignorant. Macauley's book definitely gave me incentive to dig into the historical background, but some of the book might be lost on people who aren't interested in doing a little extra legwork to set the scene, so to speak.
Overall, Paperboy is a laugh-out-loud funny read about one pacifist paperboy's childhood in the scary streets of 1970s Belfast. It's a childhood that might well remind you of your own in spots but for the bombs and the barricades, one that might inspire you to discover more Irish history, and might also remind you that we wouldn't all be so different from each other if we weren't hiding behind the real and imagined walls of the uncompromising ideologies we've created.
(E-galley provided by publisher in exchange for my honest review)