The eight stories in Roddy Doyle's collection are written with a single purpose in mind: to foster tolerance in ticklish circumstances. In modern Dublin, this means tolerating, and even welcoming, the massive influx of foreigners whose presence might be a cause of discord or annoyance. Tolerance in Ireland no longer involves Unionist and Nationalist, Protestant and Catholic, big house and slum. The 21st century has brought new versions of the old necessity to clamp down on instinctual aversion and stereotypical thinking.
Doyle is very much on the side of ethnic diversity, raunchiness and pragmatism. These stories, on the whole, are composed in a cheerful, rueful, affirmative mode, and tackle head-on assorted problems of identity and integration, as the state of being Irish gains a wider and wider application. "The problem is but," says a character in one of the most invigorating stories, "I'm black and Irish, and that's two fuckin' problems." "Home to Harlem" is the title, fraught with ironies. Declan O'Connor's granda was a black GI, and he's in the US to research the influence of Harlem on Irish literature – something of a non-starter.