Review: Milligan and Murphy
The title may make you think of some crime fighting duo like Holmes and Watson or Starsky and Hutch, but Milligan and Murphy is something completely different. Jim Murdoch takes two middle aged brothers living somewhat meaningless lives before they set out on an insightful journey.
Milligan and Murphy are half-brothers that live with their mother in the town of Lissoy. They do not work but enjoy drinking, women and general idleness. One day their mother sends them to O’Connor’s farm for some work. Though reluctant, the brothers do as they are told but instead of stopping off at the farm they continue on without reason and keep on going from town to town, meeting a variety of characters along the way.
Milligan and Murphy are not the most likable characters but they are harmless enough. Having reached middle age they are pondering marriage but the choice of women in Lissoy is minimal and the brothers have lived the same existence for so long that they don’t know where to begin when it comes to changing and progressing with their futures. Their mother orders them to get out of the house and find work at a local farm and the brothers comply but when they set out on their walk something changes in them. They pass the farm and keep going, never turning back, though they feel bad for their mother.
There is no purpose behind the journey in the early stages of the book. Milligan and Murphy simply avoid work that is waiting for them at the farm and continue onto the next town and then the one after that, eventually deciding they want to reach the sea. Survival is a tricky affair with the brothers having to resort to finding vegetables and killing what they can out in the wild. The brothers meet some unusual characters including a poet, a priest, a mad old woman and a tramp. Each offers their perspective on life and what it means to them but Milligan and Murphy decide they want to find their own meaning. This is a journey of self-discovery and the brothers are almost like lost children as they traverse unfamiliar towns. They contemplate going home but with the knowledge that emptiness is back in Lissoy they continue ever onwards in search of answers.
Milligan and Murphy is a well written story with interesting characters conveying their insight to our naive brothers as they continue on their journey. There is a lot of realism to the story and no miracle revelations or insights. Looking for answers and meaning in life is no easy task and this is the same for Milligan and Murphy. From such a simple event they begin this fascinating journey of discovery.
Milligan and Murphy is an absorbing read from start to finish. The brothers are interesting protagonists with nothing spectacular about them in appearance or skills. They are just two ordinary men that have lived the same empty existence for so many years they know nothing else. They could so easily have worked at the farm and stayed home with little change but instead they step away from their familiar realities in search of ultimate answers.
(Book source: reviewer received a copy in exchange for a fair and honest review)