Cal Book Summary and Study Guide

Detailed plot synopsis reviews of Cal

The story "CAL" by Bernard Mac Laverty takes place in Northern Ireland (Ulster). The young Irishman Cal lives alone with his father Shamie (both are Catholics) in a town near Belfast in which mainly Protestants live. Cal's mother died when he was 8 years old.
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Life there isn't easy for Cal. Additionally, Cal sympathizes with the IRA (= Irish Republican Army). Together with his friends Crilly and Skeffington, who are members of the IRA, too, Cal plans criminal acts. Another problem for him is being out of work. So he has time enough to visit the library. One day when he's there to borrow a book he sees a woman, Marcella. He falls in love with her and must always think of this woman. Marcella is much older than Cal, she is a widow and has a daughter. Because of being unemployed Shamie offers Cal a little job: he asks him to sell some wood. Cal accepts and so he tries to sell as much wood as possible. Cal drives to a farm which belongs to the Mortons. There a woman buys the trees or rather logs and asks him to cut them into smaller pieces.
A bit later the woman turns out to be Marcella's mother-in-law. The Mortons offer Cal a job on the farm. He has a chance to see Marcella every day! With working on the farm he gets more and more in contact with the Morton family and falls in love with Marcella. But there is something threatening in the air: Cal took part in the murder of her husband by driving the car for the murderer. Nobody knows this.

Time passes and Cal tries to separate from his "friends" Crilly and Skeffington and the IRA after having been the driver for some of their illegal activities. Later in the story Shamie's and Cal's house is burned down by militant Protestants, so Cal lives secretely in a derelict building on the farm. When the Mortons discover it, he's allowed to stay there.

At the end of the story Marcella falls in love with Cal and both become lovers until finally the police arrest him.

The review of this Book prepared by a Level 1 Blue Jay scholar

Cal is a Catholic teenager growing up in a predominantly Protestant neighborhood in Ulster. Though he and his family have felt the persecution of the Orangemen, Cal cannot stand the violent tactics of the IRA. He is tortured by the memory of driving a getaway car after his friend murdered a Protestant, but will be labelled a traitor if he bows out of his role in the IRA. Cal's bind is complicated by his burgeoning love for the widow of the man his friend murdered.
The review of this Book prepared by Judy Berman

Chapter Analysis of Cal

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Plot & Themes

Tone of book?    -   thoughtful Time/era of story    -   1960's-1970's Romance/Romance Problems    -   Yes Kind of romance:    -   late discovery that lover does bad Ethnic/Regional/Religion    -   Irish Is this an adult or child's book?    -   Adult or Young Adult Book Ethnic/regional/gender life    -   Yes

Main Character

Gender    -   Male Profession/status:    -   unemployed Age:    -   a teen    -   20's-30's Ethnicity/Nationality    -   Irish


How much descriptions of surroundings?    -   2 () Europe    -   Yes European country:    -   Ireland City?    -   Yes

Writing Style

Sex in book?    -   Yes Lot of foul language?    -   Yes Amount of dialog    -   roughly even amounts of descript and dialog

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Bernard MacLaverty Books Note: the views expressed here are only those of the reviewer(s).
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