Butcher a Hog: a novel

ABOUT Brian OSullivan

Brian OSullivan
AUTHOR: Brian O'Sullivan is a forty-eight-year-old Irish immigrant from Sneem, County Kerry.  When not writing, he works for OPCMIA'S local 262 pasterer's union in NYC. He lives on the Lower East Side of Manhattan with his partner Vivian and seven year old daughter Sylvie.


This meaningful and memorable story of survival follows a misguided young man from rural Ireland who is forced in immigrate and finda a way to survive on the streets of New York in the 1980s.

Butcher a Hog is a moving fictionalized memoir that recounts one man’s struggle with addiction, homelessness, and overwhelming adversity as his life unfolds in a sustained series of misadventures and noble failures that encapsulates his attempt to survive against all odds. Detailing two decades in the life of working-class, undocumented Irish emigrant, Butcher a Hog follows Liam McCarthy from his arrival in New York City in 1985 through a litany of shadowy living situations in Irish-American neighborhoods —from Boston to the Bronx—and traces his efforts to forge a livelihood amidst the realities of marginal employment, manual labor, and chronic substance abuse. With honesty and trenchant Irish humor, the novel shares both warm-hearted moments and bleak, dark times, culminating twenty years later with forty-one-year-old Liam facing an uncertain future of voluntary institutionalization in order to receive a prescribed round of ECT, or electroconvulsive therapy.



Written in a direct, confessional tone, Butcher a Hog moves across decades and generations to revisit episodes in Liam’s youth in his hometown in Kerry and while living with relatives in the UK, introducing a poignant and familiar story of secret abuse and childhood pain shaded with family and social dysfunction. Even the tale of Liam’s first communion becomes a backdrop for diminished expectations and self-enforced alienation that will underscore his failings in adult life, as he inevitably moves from one fiasco to another, each time somehow managing to transcend the latest in a string of personal disasters. While this heart-wrenching story enumerates both Liam’s years of high-spirited revelry and his years in recovery, it embraces the absurd and the hilarious aspects of his life, such as the time when having stayed sober for four years he found himself detained on Christmas Day in a South Bronx jail cell, cited on a non-moving violation for the abandonment several years earlier of a broken down car he barely remembered owning. Throughout it is a testament to one man’s life and the relationships he formed and, at times, neglected in the course of trying to move past or run away from a haunting specter of depression and self-destruction. Butcher a Hog tells a meaningful and memorable story of a misguided young man who is forced to immigrate and find a way to survive on the streets of New York in the 1980s that along the way reveals a comical, unrelentingly honest path of personal discovery.







Butcher a Hog is a novel that reads like a memoir (or a memoir that reads like a novel, and it really doesn’t much matter which). The narrator, Liam, has a very strong, engaging voice, not simply because of his dialect, but because of his unique mix of self-delusion and soul-baring honesty. It is the narrator’s frankness, in the end, which is most captivating. He allows the reader to see past his bravado to the fear, insecurity, and pain that motivate much of his self-destruction. Therefore, readers are on his side almost from word one, rooting for him to recover, to make better choices, to reach for happiness, and for peace. In the meantime, of course, his many escapades, near misses, and big mouth make for entertaining reading as well. In this, it strikes me that you have succeeded in doing what you set out to do—to write a narrative that is both painful and entertaining, and that mixture is terribly readable.


Funny and moving

Here is a book whose absurd situations will in turn shock you and make you laugh. The voice is authentic, and the stream-of-consciousness Irish immigrant brogue is captivating. Addiction is incredibly difficult to comprehend for mainstream people like me, and this book invites your judgement while reaching for your understanding. It is rare for me to laugh out loud or to hold a book for a few moments after I finished, but I did both here.