Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Galway Bay

by Mary Pat Kelly
Grand Central Publishing
576 pages
Reviewed by Heather F.

My grandmother was among other things a big reader and a history buff. She loved history. She knew all kinds of stuff, random stuff, stuff no one else seemed to know. She collected facts like some collect bottle caps or stamps. She knew her stuff. And she knew where she came from and made sure that I did too.

I am a mutt, like most Americans I expect. Among many, many different ethnicities, I am Irish. My grandmother was a Moore, descended from the O’Mores or O’Mordha. I still have her family crest, framed and hanging on the wall. Best I can tell, the Moores came over well before the potato famine, but the famine did not go ignored by them. Although she was born after the famine, Mama knew all about that as well. And she had a healthy, shall we say, ‘non-appreciation,’ for the English.

So I came to Galway Bay with an excitement to learn more about my history and with the expectation to put a human face on the tragedy I had heard so much about. Mary Pat Kelly delivered that and so much more.

Galway Bay is the fictionalized story of Mary Pat Kelly’s great-great grandparents and their struggle to survive not only the Irish potato famine, but also the move from their beloved Ireland to America. We meet the young Honora Keeley and Michael Kelly by the shores of Galway Bay. It’s love at first sight. They wed and start a family and their farm. They find solace from the troubles of their world in each other, their children, their faith, songs and stories of Ireland. These stories are shared, passed down generation by generation; and remains a theme throughout the book – the passing down of history by the ones who came before. Years of famine and abuse by the English government wear down on the family until; finally, they make the heart wrenching decision to move to America.

I won’t tell you any more. I don’t want to give too much away. But this tale to two sisters, their amazing strength, perseverance and faith is heartwarming, heartbreaking, and inspiring. The author did an amazing job of telling these stories of her ancestors and of Ireland. I highly recommend it. Even if you aren’t Irish, I think you’ll enjoy it.

If' you'd like to read more books that are in this vein, I also highly (HIGHLY) recommend Frank Delaney's Ireland. It is wonderful. He also has books out called Shannon and Tipperary; which I eened to read.

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