The Good Son

Winner of The Polari Prize & the McCrea Literary Award. Brighton’s City Reads 2016 & World Book Night 2017.

Mickey Donnelly is smart, which isn’t a good thing in his part of town. Despite having a dog called Killer and being in love with the girl next door, everyone calls him ‘gay’. It doesn’t help that his best friend is his little sister, Wee Maggie, and that everyone knows he loves his Ma more than anything in the world. He doesn’t think much of his older brother Paddy and really doesn’t like his Da. He dreams of going to America, taking Wee Maggie and Ma with him, to get them away from Belfast and Da. Mickey realises it’s all down to him. He has to protect Ma from herself. And sometimes… you have to be a bad boy to be a good son.
Publisher: Salt Publishing      ISBN: 97817846302


Shortlisted: The Guardian’s ‘Not The Booker’ Prize
Shortlisted: The Authors’ Club Best First Novel Award
Finalist for The People’s Book Prize
ELLE Magazine Best Books of 2015
The Irish Independent Top Reads of 2015.
The Reading Agency Staff Picks Best of 2015
Wales Arts Review – Fiction of the Year
Number 1 Beach Read The Pool
A Gransnet Best Christmas Read for 2015
Savidge Reads and Pam Reader Blogs Books of the Year.


“Paul McVeigh’s The Good Son gave us one of the most engaging protagonists of the year in 10-year-old Mickey Donnelly, who occupies a space between whimsy and horror in Troubles-era Ardoyne.” Bailey’s Prize-winner Lisa McInerney in her Top Reads of 2015 for The Irish Independent

“Paul McVeigh has written a first novel of beautiful generosity, poignant in the delicate manner in which he evokes the brutality of an era. A striking fresco, mixing historical upheavals and hardships of a family shattered.” Le Monde

“Heartbreaking… gripping.” Sam Jordison, The Guardian

“Blackly hilarious (with) one of the most endearing and charming characters I’ve come across in a long time.” ELLE Magazine Best of 2015

“…there’s no nostalgia in the depiction of simmering brutality and intense claustrophobia – a full-colour close-up of life in a no-go area.” The Guardian

“(McVeigh) has done an excellent job… This is a highly commendable debut, convincing in its realism.” The Independent

“The Belfast author’s spirited debut delivers a real sense of a broken family living in a broken society… well drawn and affecting… poignant… convincing… alarmingly real.” The Irish Times


“Pungently funny and shot through with streaks of aching sadness. Scenes from it are going round in my head months later. Paul McVeigh’s is an original voice of which I, for one, can’t wait to hear more.” Patrick Gale

“It’s one of those books that’s written in such an accomplished and natural way that it seems not like a book at all, but a perfect, fully-formed rendering of reality through another’s eyes. It’s a triumph of storytelling, an absolute gem.” Donal Ryan author of The Spinning Heart

‘Paul McVeigh brilliantly achieves a very difficult thing: he turns a coming-of-age tale into high art. Mickey Donnelly navigates The Troubles like Huck Finn navigates the Mississippi River letting us see the human condition through penetratingly fresh eyes. The Good Son is a work of genius from a splendid writer.’ Robert Olen Butler, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of  A Good Scent from a Strange Mountain.

“In Mickey, this novel has one of the most beguiling and appealing narrative voices I’ve read in a long time. Funny, heartbreaking, and an insightful look at The Troubles in Northern Ireland, I would highly recommend this book. I enjoyed it immensely.” Louise O’Neill, Irish Book Awards-winning writer of Only Ever Yours and Asking For It.

‘I was knocked out by this stunningly intelligent, compassionate, and mordantly funny debut novel. The Good Son is a brilliant portrait of both political and  familial unrest, and Paul McVeigh is a wildly important new talent.’ Laura van den Berg, author of The Isle of Youth and Find Me

‘A vivid, poignant and thrilling tale of troubled boyhood, The Good Son is a lot better than good – it’s outstanding.’ Toby Litt

“An intensely moving, often riotously funny coming-of-age story that merges the personal and political to create a novel that resonates long after the final page is turned.” Alex Preston author of In Love and War.

“Mickey Donnelly is one of those characters you believe in with all your heart, and after I’d finished reading, I found I really missed his voice. The Good Son is a robust, funny, and truly charming first novel.’  Alison Moore, Man Booker shortlisted author of The Lighthouse.

“A writer to be championed… utterly engaging… vivid, fresh and brought fully to life… written with a sharp eye and a big heart, The Good Son will establish Paul McVeigh as an important new Irish voice”. Lucy Caldwell author of All the Beggars Riding.

‘Brilliantly sparky and original. Fairly ripples with wicked humour, warmth and coming-of-age wonder.’’ Sarah Hilary, author of Someone Else’s Skin and No Other Darkness.

“Charming, scary, witty and touching, this is a wonderfully written coming of age story which had me following Mickey Donnelly wherever he went, whatever scrapes he got into. I particularly loved the dialogue and the vividly described location of Belfast in the 1980s.” Claire Fuller author of Our Endless Numbered Days winner of the 2015 Desmond Elliot Prize.

“Beautifully written, heartbreaking story of a young Belfast boy during the Troubles.  There’s something very brave about the writing and wild about the character.” Liz Nugent

Here’s an informal reading of an edited version of the first chapter.