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Works of Radical Imagination

Book cover for The Gospel of Orla
Book cover for The Gospel of Orla


“A consistently surprising, evocative, almost impossible to put down, and gloriously original work.” —Booklist

A stunning debut novel from the Northern Irish poet Eoghan Walls, The Gospel of Orla is the coming-of-age story of a young girl, Orla, and the man she meets who has an astonishing and unique ability.

It is also a road novel that takes us across the north of England after the two flee Orla’s village together. Here the mysteries of faith charge full bore into the vagaries of contemporary mores. A humorous, wise, deeply human and sometimes breathtaking work of lyrical fiction. 

“A melancholic, funny, and magical coming-of-age story, The Gospel of Orla is glorious, wise, and totally weird. I loved it.” —Annie Hartnett, author of Unlikely Animals

"[A] poignant, hopeful, compelling little book that offers a window into a troubled teenage soul." —The Spectator (UK)

Read an excerpt on LitHub

Book cover for The Gospel of Orla
Book cover for The Gospel of Orla

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“This is The Gospel of Orla by the Derry, Northern Ireland, poet Eoghan Walls. He is a storyteller, as it turns out, of the absolute first rank. From the very first scene of this — I'm reading it right now — where a young woman tries to run away from home on a bicycle and doesn't succeed in doing so, it is incredibly good reading. If you looking to dip your toes a little further into the waters of international literature, which is really my passion, I am here to tell you [to] check out The Gospel of Orla, it's really a great read.”

“This entrancing debut is told in the voice of Orla, a 14-year-old who lives in a village in the north of England. Her mother has recently died, and her father self-medicates with alcohol, which often leaves Orla in charge of looking after her much younger sister, Lily. Orla is regularly in trouble at school, largely for shoplifting, which she does in part to help her collect food for her planned escape to Ireland, where her mother is buried. On one of her attempted escapes, she runs into a mysterious man, whom she then witnesses perform seemingly impossible acts. From here the story becomes an odd-couple road novel, one full of pathos and humor. It is also a coming-of- age story, one that follows Orla’s grief through the filter of her righteous teenage rage, her cast-iron belief in her own worldliness, and her childlike vulnerability. She is a brilliantly engaging protagonist. By blending a fable-like structure and Orla’s grittily realistic voice, Wells has created a consistently surprising, evocative, almost impossible to put down, and gloriously original work. YAs will enjoy engaging and funny teen Orla, who swears a lot as she wrestles with grief, anger, and faith.”

The Gospel of Orla is written with immense control and precision so that the voice of the protagonist emerges as alive, individual and memorable. Eoghan Walls manages to make every single emotion Orla feels — every thought, response and action — utterly convincing and fresh and original.”

“In his debut novel, poet Eoghan Walls imagines the intersection of the material and the mystic when a grieving adolescent stumbles upon a struggling savior. Walls provides an authentic and page-turning narrative from the perspective of his restless and ever-beguiling protagonist. As the troubled teenager ricochets between circus illusion and divine touch, she and the reader are beckoned to ponder where magic ends and miracles begin.”

“A melancholic, funny, and magical coming-of-age story, The Gospel of Orla is glorious, wise, and totally weird. I loved it.”

“The Gospel of Orla is an astonishing feat of characterisation and storytelling. The prose is both earthy and sparkling and the story—equal parts bravado and vulnerability—is told with both wit and tenderness. Everyone should read this.”

“As coming-of-age stories go, The Gospel of Orla is winningly off-kilter. Walls refuses easy sentimentality, and the story is brisk and surprising, perfectly pace. . . . Walls’s marvelous novel asks what we might look for by way of consolation. A miracle shouldn’t be too much to ask.”

“In The Gospel of Orla by Northern Irish poet Eoghan Walls, Ireland represents the land of the heart’s desire for its 14-year-old heroine, living in Lancashire with her father and little sister. Distraught at the recent death of her mother, Orla plans to run away to Liverpool to board the ferry and surprise her maternal relatives. There is just one hitch; escaping on her bike in the middle of the night, she collides with a homeless man who claims, very persuasively, to be the resurrected Jesus. . . . [A] weird and original tale.”

“Eoghan Walls writes with humour, inventiveness and irreverence in The Gospel of Orla. Its wholly convincing adolescent lead is neither hero, anti-hero, nor villain. The people she encounters are neither saints nor sinners, however we might mistake them for the same. This novel is exactly the sort of searching, truth-troubling story that Orla needs to read, that would surely stay with her.”

“Move over, Anna Burns! Outta the way, Sally Rooney! There's a new voice straight from the Emerald Isle; Eoghan Walls, a poet by trade, is smashing onto the fiction scene with his debut novel.”

“Orla’s stream-of-consciousness sings with a carefully crafted combination of music and the genuine workings of a teenager’s mind. . . . her voice and the mystery of her experience make this novel a compelling, unique read.”

EOGHAN WALLS is a Northern Irish poet from Derry. He has lived and worked in Ireland, Britain, Germany and Rwanda. He won an Eric Gregory Award in 2006, and his poetry has been shortlisted for multiple international awards, including the Bridport Prize, the Manchester Poetry Prize and the Piggott Prize. He has published the first major translation of Heidegger’s poetical works and currently teaches Creative Writing at Lancaster University. The Gospel of Orla is his debut novel.