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Straying was published in the US by Scribner in 2018. It appeared as When Light is Like Water in the UK, published by Penguin.


' gripping as a memoir and as intimate as a poem. Molly McCloskey has written a novel that is both urgent and reflective, a tender and unsentimental exploration of love’s dark corners. It is brilliant: her finest book yet.’ – Anne Enright

Straying is so sophisticated and yet simply truthful at the same time - the layering is so deftly and well done, Alice trying out all those different lives, trying to find the real one…. Beautifully understated and complicated and generous.’ – Tessa Hadley

'...the moving portrait of a young woman adrift through a troubled world and in her own heart. Discovering that the unknowable desires and passions that move her are somehow related to those that drive people to war and conflict, she, and the reader, move closer to a difficult wisdom.' – Viet Thanh Nguyen

'Molly McCloskey's prose has such immense authority, precision and seriousness. This shimmering, beautiful, restless work will stir recognitions without seeming to try. If you've ever fallen in love with someone you shouldn't have fallen in love with - as who hasn't, once or twice - be prepared to encounter the novel as mirror, her finest book to date, a triumph.' – Joseph O'Connor

'I loved Straying. It is absorbing, tense, and beautifully written. Molly McCloskey has written a wonderful novel.' – Roddy Doyle

'This is a short but powerful novel about love - love for a mother, love for a husband, love for a lover. Straying will be read for many years to come for its wisdom and precision.' – Edmund White

'A powerful and deeply affecting novel ... In writing that sparkles with intelligence and insight, the ordinary moments of everyday existence are charged with a beauty and tenderness that render them only just bearable' – Mary Costello

'McCloskey writes with such care and craft; every description of the landscape of the west and the life of her captivating narrator is imbued with poetry and truth. Straying is fresh and raw and completely entrancing.' – Sara Baume


This mutual appraisal between the foreigner and the Irish — not to mention between the various echelons of Ireland’s implacable class system — will prove one of the many pleasures of this humane and lucid novel….The real heartbreak in this wise, discomfiting novel turns out to be the love between mother and daughter… - New York Times

Short, intense and emotionally precise … Such is McCloskey’s powerful control of the novel and meticulous, economical observations, that in little more than 200 pages she can show the exact nature of a life not wasted, but not fully inhabited … as well as the character of one marriage, of an affair and, not least, of the transformation of Ireland herself. - Minneapolis Star Tribune

Adultery is often sentimentalised in fiction, but in her ferociously well written second novel Molly McCloskey gives it to us straight ... Each brilliant vignette offers a new angle on Alice's ballooning sense of disorientation ... In spite of its lyrical title and exquisite prose, [the novel] is a brutal examination of sexual self-delusion. But it also has much that's memorable to say about love - not the affair kind, but the real thing... McCloskey writes with shattering insight on loss and the way that it can make us feel tender towards the world - Guardian (UK)

A moving meditation on rootlessness and love. . . . McCloskey is a keen, sympathetic observer; her tight, controlled prose meticulously details Alice’s honest consideration of her flaws and desires. The melancholic complexity of Alice’s very human struggle carries this elegant novel with no easy answers. – Publishers Weekly 

[A] moving and propulsive tale. – Booklist

Elegant prose and nuanced self-awareness, reminiscent of early Edna O'Brien, enhance this intensely focused story of memory and self-imposed loss. –Kirkus

McCloskey’s exquisite phrasing and original observations light up Straying from the first page to the last…[she] doesn’t simply decode cultural mores, or love, or the way grief unfurls over decades. She translates those abstractions into a language all can understand, and in so doing turns her readers into code-breakers of the heart. - The Florida Times-Union

Powerful ... a tender depiction of love and loss that combines the personal pull of a memoir with the precision of a short story ... McCloskey's novel is packed with wisdom, and never heavy-handed with it. The details of the affair and the tawdry aspect of forbidden desire are brilliantly related - Sunday Times (Ireland)

McCloskey is an expert storyteller … keeping up a soft dreamlike tone as she chips away at human vulnerabilities and self-destructive desires - Sunday Times (UK)

McCloskey describes everything with a luminous exactitude ... It's entirely beguiling - Mail on Sunday (UK)

A thoughtful meditation on connection set against the backdrop of a world on the move ... Though McCloskey has no shortage of ideas, she also engages the heart: she's particularly good on the contrariness of our desires ... Fans of Anne Enright will find much to admire and enjoy - Daily Mail (UK)

McCloskey has the observational eye of the outsider, able to pinpoint the intricacies and mannerisms of the Irish people and landscape. ... But the writing's the thing. Oh, the writing ... Hers is a wondrous turn of phrase, and yet somehow it makes Alice's life and interiority seem all the more real - Sunday Business Post (Ireland)

Brilliant ... McCloskey has a limpid, even liquid style: it's as if you were surreptitiously reading someone's chatty and extremely revealing letter ... Rest assured, [it] will feature on a few end-of-year lists - (Ireland)