Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Review: Galway Bay

Title: Galway Bay
Author: Mary Pat Kelly
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing, 2009
Genre: Historical Fiction/576 pages
Source: Ipad
My Rating: 5/5

Galway Bay is the story of Honora Keeley Kelly, a young Irish mother, who survives the famine in Ireland, and escapes to America with only the clothes on her back and some of her family. It is a story spanning two generations of the Kelly's family struggle with starvation in Ireland, their desperate departure from Ireland, and their hardships that follow as they make a new life in Chicago. It is also a story of enduring love for her family, her husband, and most of all Ireland, especially Galway Bay.

The author is Honora Kelly's great-great granddaughter. She was told Honora's story over the years, so she spent many years thoroughly researching it and wanted to tell her amazing story of survival. This story was very common during the time of the potato famine in Ireland. Whole families would succumb to starvation and eventually death if they didn't have any way to get some food. Luck was needed, but in Honora's case, her determination and her husband Michael's hard work, allowed them to persevere. Their love for one another helped them to carry on. 

I love the ancient Irish stories told by Honora's grandmother of the times when Irish was only spoken, and families were free to live off the land without being beholden to any English landlords. The horse races, the dangerous lives of the men fishing in Galway Bay, the beautiful imagery of the Irish landscapes brought Ireland in the 1800's closer to me.

I also enjoyed reading about her family's struggle to survive during their time in Chicago. The Irish immigrants did come to together in their churches to help with advice and community, but otherwise you were on your own as to how you would get money, shelter, and food to live. In Honora's case, her small boys had to work in the factories where cattle were slaughtered. It was hard on young children who were expected to help the family get money. School was secondary when you needed food.  But somehow, these Irish familes achieved a life of prosperity for the following generations. They were the backbone of the growth of cities like Chicago and other big cities in America. 

I enjoyed this story because I am first generation Irish-American, and I have heard stories of how my great-great grandmother also survived the famine by eating from the garbage of her landlord. It was a very realistic representation of this time in Ireland, and the author is a superb storyteller.

No comments:

Post a Comment