Céad Míle Fáilte – “One hundred thousand welcomes,” in Irish – to my mom, Cathy, who was so inspired by an Irish historical novel that she chose to write her very first book review and blog post about it. She raves about both the dramatic historical backdrop and the romance at the heart of the novel.
Cathy: I loved reading Mary Pat Kelly’s Galway Bay. Set in Ireland in the 1840s, it is a fictional account of Irish citizens affected by the potato blight and resulting famine that sparked the mass exodus to America. The author herself is a distant relation of the heroine, Honora Keeley. Galway Bay begins as the story of 16-year-old Honora, whose family struggles to support itself by fishing in Galway Bay.
Honora is sitting on a rock overlooking the bay and contemplating her entrance to a convent at the end of the summer when out of the water walks Michael Kelly, the man who will be the love of her life. It is truly love at first sight for both of them. The rest of the novel centers on Honor and Michael, their marriage, and their struggle to survive the blight, starvation, illnesses and death.
While I always knew about the blight, Kelly’s portrayal brings it to life. Honor and her family are eventually forced to leave their home for “Amerikay!” or more specifically, Chicago. I was immersed into the history of Chicago and how Honora crossed paths with many of Chicago’s early great entrepreneurs.
Galway Bay echoes the story of two million Irish men and women who try to assimilate into their new country while managing to maintain their “Irish Way.” It was fascinating to learn that our expression “so long,” derives from the Irish word slán. The Kelly family’s story of love is captivating, heart-breaking and ultimately triumphant – a highly engrossing read. Slán!
Sarah: Thanks so much, Mom, for sharing this intriguing book with us! Erin Go Bragh!