In a hidden Ireland where fishermen and tenant farmers find solace in their ancient faith, songs, stories, and communal celebrations, young Honora Keeley and Michael Kelly wed and start a family. Because they and their countrymen must sell both their catch and their crops to pay exorbitant rents, potatoes have become their only staple food.
But when blight destroys the potatoes three times in four years, a callous government and uncaring landlords turn a natural disaster into The Great Starvation that will kill one million. Honora and Michael vow their children will live. The family joins two million other Irish refugeesvictims saving themselvesin the emigration from Ireland.
Danger and hardship await them in America. Honora, her unconventional sister Máire, and their seven sons help transform Chicago from a frontier town to the "City of the Century." The boys go on to fight in the Civil War and enlist in the cause of Ireland's freedom.
Spanning six generations and filled with joy, sadness, and heroism, GALWAYBAY sheds brilliant light on the ancestors of today's forty-four million Irish Americansand is a universal story you will never forget.
In this scattered retelling of her own family's struggles during the Great Irish Starvation, Kelly captures the suffering but neglects the inner lives of her thinly drawn characters. In Bearna, Ireland, in 1839, Honora Keeley falls in love with Michael Kelly after finding him swimming in Galway Bay, and they soon marry despite her father's objections. For a short time, life, while far from perfect, is sweet. Then comes the blight, destroying most of their potato crop. After losing the harvest for the third time in four years, the Kellys flee to America and settle in Chicago. Though the research is meticulous and the famine horrors are catalogued in great detail, the Kellys' lives in America are presented haphazardly, making it difficult to keep track of the huge cast of characters when decades are skipped seemingly at random. The characters themselves function more as types-greedy landlords, arrogant Englishmen-to further the plot. Despite its flaws, the novel may appeal to fans of Frank McCourt and Irish history, as the trials of the Kelly family echo the struggle of the Irish to assimilate while retaining their own heritage. (Feb.)Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.