Harry Kyle is an Irish soldier who has recently concluded a 6-month UN Peacekeeping mission in the Lebanon. Married with two young children, Harry left his home 6 months ago in an attempt to escape the increasing tensions of his marriage, and generate some extra finance.
On his arrival home, Harry finds that while his financial worries have eased, his marriage worries have increased. Constantly bickering with his wife, snappy with his children, and under the growing threat of alcoholism, Harry must also contend with a more insidious and powerful force: the horrific sights of the Lebanon which have become indelibly etched on his fragile mind.
'After Kafra', the second novel from Irish army member Martin Malone, is one of those books that can be aptly described as a 'quiet triumph'. The first half is quite stirring in its depiction of an ostensibly steely young man in the throes of post traumatic stress disorder.
Less convincing, however, is the character of June, Harry's wife. While the portrayal of Harry is consistent throughout the novel, June's character suffers in the pacing of the second half. Giving nothing of the plot away, a transition takes place in June's character, and while it could be argued that the transition is integral to the book's success, it seems a little too contrived to go unchecked. Harry's segues into analysis of his Lebanon experience are also a moot point – tending to isolate rather than incorporate the reader.
'After Kafra' is a fine read that is generally well written, well paced and well judged. And while some may find the subject matter immediately alienating, it is a book which ultimately rewards the patience of the reader.