Thomas Moran


"The best thing about Moran's third novel is how he so deftly manages to balance the realms of the personal and the political. The perfectly rendered frivolity of university life, with its petty feuds and callow romances, is bolstered by a subtly drawn undercurrent of sectarian violence. Irish life can often be measured by its contradictions -between beauty and brutishness, conviviality and cruelty- and Moran is wise enough to let these paradoxes resonate against one another."
-New York Times Book Review

"The hynotic story of Una Moss, whose steely intelligence and guiless heart make her one of the most remarkable characters to grace fiction's pages. The surface calm and ribald humor belie the fierce undertow of Joycean passion and politics. Moran's unerring sense of drama and ear for real talk allow him to portray Una and her 'best girls' as if he'd been granted provisional membership in this clan of women...The shocking conclusion of 'Water, Carry Me' will break the hardest of hearts. Una Moss's voice and story is haunting."
-Washington Post Book World

"Superbly written and extraordinarily touching, Moran's novel brings an Irish world of pain and beauty to life."
-Tampa Tribune

"Provocative questions about trust keep the novel moving swiftly. Can a son trust a father? A woman her lover? Or her best friend? Superbly portraying the nuances of loyalty, Moran captures the roles the cowardly, the greedy, the dim and the faithless all play in warfare, even on its fringes. Moran's narrative is sure to carry the reader in its current."
-Publishers Weekly

"Compelling... This is a well-crafted, haunting tale filled with very human characters caught in a web much bigger than themselves. Highly recommended."
-Library Journal

"Elegantly written...Una is an appealing character."
-The Atlantic Monthly

"With its raven-haired heroine, steely paramilitaries, and passion, 'Water, Carry Me' seems like something Edna O'Brien or Gerald Seymour might have written, and in many ways it is ...Thomas Moran is a poetic writer."
-New York Daily News

"Vividly dramatic ...The very real strengths here are Moran's forceful characterizations of the sentient, credibly intelligent Una and the intriguing, soft-spoken Aidan."
-Kirkus Reviews


Chapter 1.
WHAT IF THE WORLD TURNED wrong one day, and the deep sea gave up its dead?
What would we of the land's end spy? A hundred thousand pale corpses, bobbing like fishermen's floats in the green swell? Several millions, from chain-mailed Norman lords to the black-clad crews of Spanish galleons, from ladies in silk ball gowns who went down on liners to poor Connacht fishermen swept overboard in the lonely nights by sudden swinging booms? And flaunty yachtsmen, cocksure but capsized by white squalls, the implacable destroyers of pretty boats?
Would the endless waters become a sort of peat bog on which, stepping so carefully, we might walk from here all the way to America? Would the corpses' eyes be open, watching and resentful? Or would they be closed as tight as a baby's at the moment of birth?
This isn't a decent vision. It's one I would not have. But it has been with me for years, sometimes asleep and sometimes awake.
The worst ever was the night I was loving my first boy for the first time, my breath going into him and his into me, skin to skin and my skin shimmering with pleasure, when suddenly the thought of the sea giving up its dead came and made me feel like one of the drowned ones, perfectly preserved by the cold and dark, but dead, and senseless. The boy drew away from me.
It was my grandda Rawney Moss's curse, thought I doubt he ever knew he put it on me.
On calm nights, when the soft wash of the sea on the shingle of our bay seemed like the whispers of a dream, my grandda told me stories of the ocean's dead. I was little and never doubted the answers to the questions I asked. We lived at the far side of Cobh, seaward from the quay and the lofty dun cathedral that loomed above it, close to where the water met the shore. Cobh is at the head of Cork Harbor. A dark place, Cobh. The coffin ships sailed from there overburdened with convicts for Australia, later with those fleeing the Famine for America. So many never arrived. Only God knows where those rotten hulks packed with ragged, hungry Irish folk and their kids went down. The doomed Titanic made its last landfall at Cobh, then steamed west (and cut north) toward an iceberg that nobody saw until too late. And it's Cobh soil covering most of the eight hundred bodies from the torpedoed Lusitania.

Plenty of ghosts to scare a little girl. Plenty of tales for an old man to tell before the girl drifted into sleep to the droning of his voice and the gentle sweep of waves over the pebbled beach.

My grandda had somewhere acquired the belief that the sea becomes denser and denser under the pressure of its own vast weight the deeper you go. So nothing could ever sink all the way to the bottom in blue water. The lightest wrack from a sunken ship -china plates, ladies' satin slippers, monogrammed tortoiseshell hairbrushes, an infant's silver teething ring- remained forever in a layer at four or five hundred feet down, just where all the light vanishes and the abyssal cold begins. Perhaps a few hundred feet lower was an unstirring mass of all the drowned, little children at the top, women next, and then the heavier men. A thousand feet deeper would be old cannons, cargo crates filled with goods of iron and brass and lead, the hulls of small ships whose backs had been broken by huge waves. Finally, at four thousand feet or so by Rawney's reckoning, there'd be the monstrous wrecks - the Titanic and the Lusitania, the Bismarck and the Hood- frozen in the black cold, held fast by the thickened ocean. The layers never rose, never fell, never so much as trembled even if Force Ten storms raged above.
And so the bottoms of the great seas were as tidy as a well-scythed hurling field, except that instead of rich green grass there was sand, every grain fixed eternally in its appointed place.
My grandda said ordinary fishermen of the coasts hadn't the nets to trawl at such depths, and would have had a mortal fear of doing that anyway. So the sea hid and preserved the remains of all disasters. But recently, he told me, Jap and Russki factory ships with miles-long nets were going deeper than anyone before, scraping the secret layers. Sometimes even hauling in the wrinkled bodies of children drowned a hundred years ago, bodies that gleamed whitely amidst the writhing mess of pollock and halibut. The Japs and the Russkies tried to keep this quiet -they were damned high and low for raping the seas as it was- but Rawney had heard what he had heard. "From them that know," he said. They put the childrens' bodies in weighted canvas bags and sent them down again, to a deeper place than the one from which they'd been so rudely disturbed.
I could see it. It made some sense. I could see the pale dead as easy as a crowd at a fair. I dreamed sometimes I was among them, freezing inside and out, lungs full of sea and salt in my mouth, never changing, never moving in the crushing embrace of the deep...

IT'S RAWNEY'S CURSE. It's stupid, of course. There are more pressing things for me to dream of, and worry about. There's my finals and who I will love and what will become of me. There's The Troubles that infect the land north and south alike. The violence is like a retrovirus moving furtively through our blood, biding awhile, then suddenly striking. It kills some, and deadens the hearts of the rest of us. It's a wonder the EC hasn't quarantined the Irish.
Not 'til I was grown did I learn for certain that The Troubles had caused me to come live with my grandda in his cottage at the seaward end of Cobh, even though I was rich. I was that rarest of things in a place like Cobh, a trust girl. My father had his own electronics company that sold things all over the world, and he had business with a manufacturer of small airplanes near Belfast. He and my ma drove up there one May day in 1979, planning some business and some golf. My da was a demon for golf. He said the finest courses were in Ulster. On the fourth day of the trip, they were killed. It was a motorway crash, I was told. Something that at eight I could understand. My da and my ma came home in very polished black coffins with beautiful brass rails and silver handles, but the men in charge of everything wouldn't allow them opened for the wake. The coffins seemed to rest so lightly on the shoulders of the pallbearers that I felt they must be empty and the funeral mass and the long, slow march to the burial ground were just part of some game. Maybe my da and ma had run away and hid somewhere, but everyone had to keep it secret for reasons I couldn't puzzle out.
But I knew it was no game once Rawney mashed my hand with his big rough one and began to cry. "You da was a fine lad, but he made a mistake," Rawney said. "He believed he was one of the hard men. Never thought there's always someone harder." We were standing between two fresh mounds of wet dirt, the fancy black boxes on either side and a priest before me muttering Latin. I liked my black dress and black patent shoes and black raincoat, all new. "He should never've got mixed up with that lot, not for all the gold in the world," I heard Rawney say quietly. "Remember this all your days, Una Moss. Never trust a Prod. They're bent, never straight. And they hate us Catholics to the heart."

Later I heard other things. My best girl Fallon Fitzsimmons eavesdropped on her da saying softly into the phone that Liam Moss's death was an assassination, no question, even though neither the IRA nor the UDA nor some other bunch of initials she didn't get straight claimed responsibility. Only the British SAS did their murdering on the sly, like criminals, Fallon'd heard her da say. But I was too little for any of this to mean a thing. I didn't know what assassination was. A motorway smashup seemed in my grief and loneliness exactly what happens to the parents of girls who sometimes hadn't been respectful or well-behaved, or who had in rage at some punishment wished them dead. It wasn't for years that Fallon's whispered secret made a part of my mind flash once with perfect clarity, and then go dark and dead...

Chapter 2.
THE WORLD DID TURN, AND TURN, and turn again, through no doing of mine or Rawney's or any living soul I knew. And the life I'm living isn't one I'd wish on anyone.
It's a dark road I'm traveling now.
I know I have a name. I am Una Moss, rich orphan and third-year medical student at University College. I do well at my studies and should one day earn my degree with honors. My hair is black as the cliffs of Moher, a raven's wing, a seal at sea, the heart of an Ulsterman. Rawney always said the black came from selky blood in my mother's line, certainly not from his. My eyes are deep-set, and such an arctic blue people sometimes stare at them. They look almost transparent, but there's nothing you see on the other side. I like that. But I don't think they're pretty.
The rest: not all I'd wish. My nose is long and straight, but too broad at the tip. My upper lip looks swollen. I'm six feet tall, thin as an urchin, always have been, but stronger than you'd think. Reportedly my legs are much longer than average, even for my height. My legs are the best. That's what Fallon, who's so beautiful, has always told me.
I had one man between them as much as we could manage for months and months until just a little while ago. I was in love. Still am, for I know not the way out. But only in a rogue dream do I feel his touch, hear his soft endearments. He'd been everything to me. Now he's a ghost, no good man I loved, not flesh and blood, not soul and heart.
Una Moss is fortune's fool. That's what the face in the mirror tells me in the end.

But I don't believe in ends. Times past are not times gone, so long as they live inside you. My memory's like a theater, I can see and hear the players move among the sets. When I'm with them, the world outside stands still. I've escaped the turning, for a bit. I'm the past and I'm the now and, in rare moments, I believe I've the future in me as well. That's the selky blood, Rawney would say if ever I'd tried to explain my place. And, superstitious man, he'd edge away.........

Literary Novels

"An illusion-free zone of fiction. Nuanced and stark. 'Anja the Liar' is a profound book that could not be more relevant." -Seattle Times
"Delivers a difficult but engrossing message through a distinctive voice." -Washington Post Book World
"The hynotic story of Una Moss, whose steely intelligence and guiless heart make her one of the most remarkable characters to grace fiction's pages." -Washington Post Book World
"Now, to 'A Farewell to Arms' and 'The English Patient', add another memorable star-crossed Red Cross romance: Thomas Moran's second novel." -Walter Kirn in TIME
"As in 'The Diary of Anne Frank', the blend of confinement, sexual awakening and cruelty in this novel makes for a potent and unblinking coming-of-age tale." -The New Yorker