Of course, as difficult as life is for the men in this book, life is even harder for women. It's explained how “they divide up the women into categories,” said Maureen. “The mammies. The bitches. The wives. The girlfriends. The whores. Women are all for it too, so long as they fall into the right class. They all look down on the whores. There but for the grace of God.” The prostitutes are at the bottom of the social ladder and suffer the most. The character of Tara Duane who used to be a prostitute is a particularly interesting character as someone who tries to be savvy and gain leverage in the community, but ultimately fails and participates in abusive behaviour as she's convinced of her own righteousness.
Most fascinating of all is Maureen who has strong independent opinions and exists in a privileged place as the protected mother of a feared gangster. As someone who has returned to Ireland after living in England for many years, she can see the corruption and hypocrisy from an outsider's perspective. She realizes she's made mistakes but she sees clearly how the church has hoarded power and abused its position. At one point she has this powerful confrontation in a confessional booth: “Oh, Father. I know I’m sorry. What about you? Bless me, Ireland, for I have sinned. Go on, boy. No wonder you say Holy God is brimming with the clemency; for how else would any of you bastards sleep at night?” She's someone who has entirely lost any faith in the church and its ability to heal: “there’s nothing there. No confessor, no penitent, no sin, no sacrament. Just actions to be burned away.” There is a strong disregard for the symbolic powers the church once possessed as in one scene where a runaway prostitute Georgie sniffs cocaine off a bible and observes that these books are “Mass produced and made of dead trees; there’s nothing special about them.” The ferocious anger for the way religion has failed to support people when they are at their most vulnerable is palpable throughout the book.
“The Glorious Heresies” is an energetic and dynamic story depicting members of society who aren't often given a voice. For this reason, McInerney's writing reminded me of books by Kerry Hudson and, for the way it depicts communities entrenched in violence it reminded me of the LA novel “All Involved”. It speaks of the challenges the current generation faces while showing an understanding of the weight and influence of the past. In fact, the past continuously bleeds into the present as a character named George observes “We’ve more history than we’re able for.” Instead of looking to the age-old institutions for support and inspiration the newer generation's experience is refracted through video games or popular TV shows like The Sopranos or The Walking Dead. McInerney writes powerfully about issues affecting us here and now. I felt drawn into her characters' lives and tremendously moved by this strikingly forceful novel.