When Pen O'Grady moved in with the Walls four years ago, she was sure that she and her long time on-and-off lover Cara Wall would remain together until they are old and weak . That was Pen's vision until one Sunday morning when Pen receives a phone call from a hospital informing her that Cara died in a car accident. Suddenly, Pen is alone, left with responsibilities and concerns like that of a widow's. To add difficulty to her situation, no one in their families and community gave her that recognition.
"When these people looked at me they could have no idea that I was anything to their missing relative; that I had let her dip her biscuits in my tea, on and off, for thirteen years; that sometimes, in the middle of a conversation on inflation or groceries, she would look down at my hand in sudden wonder and would tell me, her voice hushed as if in church, 'Oh I want your hand inside me.'"Hood is a story of grieving, narrated through the self-assured and faithful character of Pen, during a time of numbness. The novel snaps from the earliest part of their relationship --when they met and fell in love while studying in a Catholic school in Dublin --then to the middle part -- when Cara struggles to accept the label on her sexuality-- and even to the later part-- when Pen has accepted Cara's infidelities and restlessness. It provides such detailed descriptions of Pen and Cara's moments, including the intimate passions that invokes readers with Pen's nostalgia.
Cara's character, on the other hand, though established as unpredictable, passionate and sometimes neurotic (with all the frequent travels, flings and tie-dye shirts); it remained unclear how sincere she was about her love for Pen. In the process of grieving, Pen also unearths the repressed, bitter feelings she had for Cara, with lines that goes:
'..Sometimes I suspect that what had really happened was that we became more resigned, more cynical, raised our pain thresholds as we lowered our expectations. All in all, settled for less.'
Such parts in the novel stirs pity and sometimes frustration, for Pen's character.
Emma Donoghue carefully yet casually presented Pen's widowhood-- elaborating on the character's suffering with sudden loss and loneliness-- uniquely aggravated by the relationship's secrecy in the backdrop of the 70-80's conservative, Catholic Dublin. Not only was it inevitable to sympathize with Pen's grieving, but it also conveyed that Pen and Cara's kind of relationship is just like the many honest love stories.