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Thursday, July 15, 2010

Galway Bay by Mary Pat Kelly

TITLE: Galway Bay
Author: Mary Pat Kelly
Pgs: 567
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
Genre: Historical Fiction
Rating 4 Crowns

In 1839 on the sparkling shores of Galway Bay we meet the young Keeley sisters-18 year old Maire and 16 year old Honora. Maire is recently married to her love Johnny while Honora is destined for the church, that is until a man appears out of the sea from nowhere and captures her heart. Honora changes her mind about the church and marries Michael Kelly, the man from the sea. They seek happiness despite the turbulent times, with the English repeatedly trying to destroy the Irish and drive them out. The first of many hardships occurs when on their wedding day, Major Pyke, the abusive English landlord comes to claim Honora's first night as a bride. Maire sacrifices herself and goes in Honora's place becoming the mistress of Pyke's son Robert. The families start to grow as Michael and Honora have children, as does Maire in her captivity. Further tragedy strikes when blight poisons the potato crop three years in a row-the only crop the Irish have to survive on as the English take everything else and ship it home. In a final act of cruelty the English drive Honora and Maire, both now widowed and their families out of the village forcing them to gain passage on a vessel bound for America with the hope they'll be able to find Michael's brother, rumored to be in a place called Chicago.

The two widows travel to Chicago and do their best to build lives for themselves and their children but encounter much prejudice against the Irish They long for the Ireland they left while trying to adapt to Amerikay, a country that is also in turmoil and heading for war. When war does break out the family is divided as several of Honora and Maire's boys enlist in the fighting. They continue to adapt and overcome even as tragedy continues to strike and slowly start to give up hope of saving Ireland from the English and decide to stay in America for good.

Galway Bay, a fascinating and touching family saga, spans over 60 years and several generations. I admired the tenacity of the Kelly clan and their way of never giving up hope despite several hardships-the blight, poverty, loss of loved ones and the war among them. I especially enjoyed spirited and bold Maire, a contrast from level headed Honora. I didn't like the subplot of Honora deciding whether or not to follow her heart and seek love again with Michael's brother Patrick after she had been widowed. I enjoyed the family story a lot more. Also around the time the book moves on to the civil war there are so many family members and other assorted characters it became a bit difficult to remember who was who. For example, an Irish couple that Maire and Honora met on the boat over were mentioned much later in the book and I couldn't remember who they were. I had to go back and look to see where they originally featured in the story.

The author based this novel on her own family history and you can tell that the writing is from the heart. I really enjoyed reading this take on Irish history and the struggles this family faced from the English in Ireland and then with establishing themselves in America.

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Blodeuedd said...

Have to check the library for this one at once

Cat said...

Nice review - it sounds like a good family saga which I always enjoy.

Teddy Rose said...

Great review! I also gave this a 4 out of five. here's my review

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

Unfortunately, their story could be repeated many times over. The English did their best to destroy the Irish so they could move in. As the new immigrants in the country, they encountered prejudice and difficult times. I'll have to read this book. My family history on my father's side is similar.

Jenny Girl said...

I have this on my shelf but I just haven't gotten to it yet. Your review is making me want to read very soon. Thanks for the wonderful review.