Carby Bolger assumes, as he has all his life, that he'll inherit the family farm in County Kilkenny, Ireland.
After all, he's the eldest child and only son, making him heir by ancient custom. And when his ailing father finally dies, Carby—a prickly loner of a man—plans to finally capitalize on the farm's secret.
The heir apparent's plans come crashing down when his sister Molly returns from London to care for their ill parents. When she becomes pregnant, with no husband in sight, her condition—and her lack of any effort to hide it—shocks and outrages the staunchly Catholic community. But when her son, Noel, is born, he immediately steals the heart of his dying grandfather, a beloved member of the close-knit farming community. More than that, to Carby's horror, the "little bastard" inherits everything.
What follows is a rancorous lawsuit on which everyone in the county seems to have an opinion—especially the regulars at Finnegan's Pub. Faced with an abrasive, disliked judge, Carby finds himself a local hero for the first time in his life. How long he can retain his newfound local favor depends on his own patience and his sister, who plans to sell the farm (and, unwittingly, its secret) to an American, driving Carby to desperate and—as it turns out—fateful measures.
A classical piece of Irish storytelling, Carby's Fate combines family drama and duplicity with violence, betrayal, and redemptive hope.