Molly Fox's Birthday
The fact that Deirdre Madden's tale takes place all in one day, as a calm reflection of the narrator’s relationships, does not take away from the fantastic insights to human nature that the author reveals. It may be Molly Fox’s birthday, but the real gift is for the playwright who hangs out in Molly’s house in Dublin while the eponymous character is away.
Molly Fox’s Birthday is told from the point of the view of the playwright, who revisits the memories of how she met Molly and their careers. She later expresses her feelings for another character, Andrew. The playwright is very good at pinpointing the motivations behind the actions of people she associates with; however, she comes to discover that maybe she doesn’t really know Molly at all. Madden puts into words what is universal to the human psyche.
One of the more interesting aspects of Molly Fox’s Birthday is how the playwright's brother, a Northern Ireland raised priest, maneuvers his way through cosmopolitan Dublin and London, maintaining a rather secretive relationship with Molly. He appears to be much more self-accepting and tolerant than our storyteller, who lies to others when she feels insecure.
Denial opens up to truth as the book winds down, not that it ever moves at a fast pace. It is, instead, rather tranquil. The narrator mentions and revisits one small memory from her relationship with one of the male characters, which she has lied to Molly about. It only takes a knock at the door to bring emotions from twenty years ago back into the front of her focus. Time can’t erase what she still feels, and tries to bury under silent hemming and hawing.
The ho-hum nature of describing what a wonderful actress Molly is, and how beautiful her belongings are could be replaced with more detail about the two women's undergrad years at Trinity, since this is the time that forms the foundation of all of the relationships in the book. Another aspect that should have been further explored was the behind-the-scenes details of life behind the stage (the actors, writers, directors), a life about which we only get hints.
One of the struggles that is universal to the human experience is the choice of whether to conform to family and community expectations or step into the role of the black sheep. Madden explores this through the narrator, who has trouble returning to the embrace of the family. She also makes a point of inserting the tensions between Molly and her mother. These examples, like the other memories, further the view that the past directs our present. Molly Fox’s Birthday is a nice, short, quiet trip.