The Good Son

The Good Son chosen as Brighton’s City Reads 2016

Currently shortlisted for The Polari Prize and The Irish Times Book Club choice.

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

“The hatred and destruction of Belfast’s tribal politics, seen through the eyes of a child, exposed with appalling clarity. With this first novel McVeigh has set himself a high standard. Despite its horrors, The Good Son has a warm heart and had this reader hoping against hope.” The Tablet Book of the Month

“I can’t overstate how much I fell for Mickey as a voice, he’s one of the most engaging, captivating voices that I’ve read in a novel this year. His voice is so warm and the book is so funny, quite dark humour. You will completely fall in love with this voice.” BBC Radio Oxford

“…transportingly vivid. The effect is often very funny and then touching; the injustice of a life spent half in fear, the pleasure of a life half lived in laughter.” The Big Issue

revelatory and stunning” Huffington Post

“A moving but witty story of growing up in the Troubles with a narrator you will fall in love with.” The Pool Number 1 Beach Read

“Mickey Donnelly stole my heart. You’ll fall in love with Mickey, he’s one of the loveliest characters you could meet. It’s an excellent debut. It’s a great story, he’s a great writer.” Edel Coffey on RTE Arena

“Paul McVeigh’s Belfast is emotionally raw and brutal. The Good Son is a triumph of empathy and the understanding of human dynamics, yet to say that is to vastly understate the range of McVeigh’s writing. Mickey is the funniest, most endearing human being for whom we feel huge compassion as he faces each adversity. This novel envelops the reader with its humanity.” Booktrust

“The Good Son’ is a hard-hitting, at times harrowing, but ultimately captivating and transformative tale – a story that will leave an indelible imprint on its reader.” Books Ireland

“Heart-rending. It has everything. It’s so real, one the best protagonists I’ve read in a long, long time… The last time a character had stayed with me like that was Holden Caulfield in Catcher in the Rye. Takes you from sadness to humour to horror to a whole range of other emotions quite often even in the space of one page which is not an easy thing to do.” BBC Radio Ulster Book of the Month

“Vivid… unsettling… a powerfully resonant novel… two of the characters that Mickey most calls to mind are Scout Finch and Paddy Clarke… a remarkable achievement.” Wales Arts Review

“One of the best voices of 2015.” A Case for Books

The Good Son is a triumph of vivid recall… so much more than a coming-of-age story. It’s a finely delineated depiction of a brutal and brutalising environment. The dialogue, in particular, is exquisite, every nuance and rhythm perfectly cadenced… genius. Highly recommended. Watch out for Paul McVeigh.”

“A truly affecting and absorbing novel… an eye opening social commentary on the Troubles. Although only his debut novel, The Good Son perfectly illustrates what a masterful storyteller Paul McVeigh is and I personally can’t wait to see what he does next.” The Ulster Tatler Book of The Month



“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

‘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.

“Someone’s going to make an exceptional movie out of this amazing, cinematic, perfectly structured and realised book.” Cate Kennedy author of The World Beneath.

“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.

‘From the very first page I knew I was in the hands of an accomplished storyteller, McVeigh’s  vibrant and irreverent prose carrying along a novel that is both hopeful and big hearted at its core. It deserves to be widely acclaimed and widely read.’ Claire King, author of The Night Rainbow.

‘Paul McVeigh has created a strong, unique, and funny protagonist, able to reveal the everyday intricacies and the broader politics of the Troubles in a fresh, engaging way. I fell in love with Mickey Donnelly.’ Sarah Butler, author of Ten Things I’ve Learned About Love and Before the Fire.

‘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 author of Unravelling Oliver.


“An utterly marvellous debut … The Good Son is such a brilliant book… McVeigh excels in the use of light and shade within his writing… incredibly powerful… no word is wasted, no sentence unplanned… a narrator  I will remember for a very long time.” Savidge Reads

“Mickey Donnelly is one of the most engaging young characters I’ve ever read… full of energy and high spirits, filled with passion, humour and warmth. McVeigh has captured the naivety and complexity of being a little boy in an untenable situation with great sensitivity and compassion. If you choose to invest in The Good Son, you can do so in the knowledge that you are in the hands of an accomplished storyteller. Prepare to laugh and cry as Mickey Donnelly takes hold of your heart and never lets it go until the last page. I loved this book and I didn’t want it to end.” Pam Reader

“There are some scenes which are truly heartbreaking… The Good Son is a startlingly unique coming of age tale which makes the Troubles come alive through the eyes of a boy who has known nothing else, but dreams of better things beyond it.” Lonesome Reader

“This is such a good read; it’s funny and poignant by turns but it’s also a chilling commentary on what living through those times in Belfast meant for some people. McVeigh’s brilliant use of dialect has you chuckling throughout, but you never lose the sense of danger. He will surely go on to write more great novels and to win awards for them but, personally, I’d like to read a sequel to this one. I don’t want to leave Mickey Donnelly there – I want to know what happens to him later.” Trip Fiction

“It is honest, raw, emotional and hilarious. (McVeigh) has filled the novel with great characters ranging from relatively good to relatively evil and his use of Mickey as the lynchpin is a triumph. It is impossible not to love this kid and how he thinks about and copes with his struggles… the book crackles with comedy and drama, excellent dialogue.” Joe Cushnan 

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