How To Build A Boat

How To Build A Boat by Elaine Feeney

How to Build a Boat by Elaine Feeney is a novel that navigates the choppy waters of human connection, grief, and the search for community. Feeney’s prose, like the rhythmic lapping of waves against a hull, draws readers into a world where secrets and shame simmer beneath the surface.

At the heart of the story is Jamie O’Neill, a singular young man in the fictional town of Emory, nestled in the west of Ireland. Jamie, a devoted reader of Edgar Allan Poe, possesses an affinity for mathematics and a reverence for the late Iranian Fields medallist, Maryam Mirzakhani. His mind dances between the symmetries of numbers and the mysteries of fiction. But Jamie’s most ambitious project is not mathematical—it’s emotional. He yearns to build a perpetual motion machine, a contraption that might somehow reconnect him with the mother he lost during childbirth.

Feeney deftly weaves Jamie’s narrative with that of Tess Mahon, an additional needs teacher whose life is ensnared in chaos. Tess grapples with infertility, estrangement from her self-satisfied banker husband, Paul, and a sense of displacement at Christ’s College, where intolerance festers under the headmaster, Father Faulks. When Tess reaches out to Jamie, their connection becomes a lifeline, but it remains uncertain who is saving whom.

How to Build a Boat is a gentle tsunami—a novel that sweeps readers along, revealing the fragility of broken souls seeking solace in community. Feeney invites us to fall in love with Jamie’s refreshingly sideways take on life, where intuition trumps cold logic, and the value of communal endeavour shines through the solitary toil of existence.