Monday, March 9, 2015

Galway Bay - A Must-Read Irish Historic Fiction

As St. Patrick's Day approaches I am pulling out my copy of Galway Bay for a second reading.  Yes, it was so good that I will read it again. And that is the reason I am writing this review. Galway Bay is a beautifully-written historical fiction that describes the horrors of the potato famine and ultimately the life and survival of a family and two countries.


Galway Bay by Mary Pat Kelly

Galway Bay by Mary Pat Kelly

I happened across the novel Galway Bay one day when I was wandering around the local book store. I don't know of a way to describe this story of survival in a way that will do it justice but I will try my best.

I was immediately hooked with the prologue:

"We wouldn't die, and that annoyed them. They'd spent centuries trying to kill us off, one way or another, and here we were, raising seven, eight, nine of a famiy on nothing but potatoes and buttermilk. But then the blight destroyed the potato. Three times in four years our only food rotted in the ground." -- Honora Keeley Kelly as told to her great-granddaughter Agnella Kelly.


As we follow Honora Keeley Kelly through her life, meeting her as a young lady preparing to enter the convent, we learn of the lives of the fishermen and tenant farmers in Ireland during "the Before Times".  She is a young lady whose family supports themselves fishing Galway Bay  "so calm and quiet. But I know your moods.Turn my back and you could be raging and rolling."  Honora is determined to not be the wife of a fisherman and has decided to marry the church instead.   She is determined and her family is proud; hoping that she is chosen.  She is sure of her plan until she meets Michael Kelly.
Claddagh Ring

Honora and Micheal begin their lives together, a young couple deeply in love. Then the blight comes, year after year, and destroys their major food source. Many starve during the harsh conditions.  Honora Keeley survives, but I’m not sure how since the odds are clearly against her. Penal laws continue to cause difficulties and the status quo level of poverty for tenant farmers jumps to a level of famine, starvation, and desperation.


A Personal Connection


As I age, my interest in things Irish has increased. I guess it’s hard to think about where you came from when you are young and very busy trying to figure out where you are going. But now that I’m more mature I have time to ponder things such as where my grandparents, and their parents, and their grandparents came from.

I know that my very distant relatives on my dad’s side perhaps immigrated to the United States due to fleeing religious persecution. I don’t know as much about my mom’s side. However, I do understand that at some point, they emigrated from Ireland. As a child, I remember the delighted twinkle in my grandmother's eyes as she told my mom of their trip back to Ireland. Unfortunately, I was too young to pay attention to her stories then and I couldn't understand why she was so happy to have kissed a rock with some guy named Blarney. As I age, my interest in Ireland and in my heritage grows.

I am thankful to Mary Pat Kelly for sharing her family history and story in such an entertaining and educational way.  Whether you are interested in the history of Ireland and early America or whether you love a good love story and the tale of a mother's love and desperate journey to raise her children, I think you will love this story. 





Note: The author may receive a commission from purchases made using links found in this article.

6 comments:

  1. I love Ireland and actually went on a tour around Galway where they talked about the potato blight and the famine. This sounds like a great book.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Heather, if you read it, I do hope you let me know if it rings true after having visited the area. I'd love to know. I'd love to tour Ireland. How wonderful that you were able to.

      Delete
  2. Such a well-written book review, Dawn Rae. I've heard about Galway Bay for years, but have never read it. About time I did and with St. Patrick's Day coming this is a perfect time. Although I'm not Irish, my ancestors came from the British Isles (Scotland and England) and my daughter is married to an Irishman, so I feel a connection to this place in history.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Everyone knows I love a great love story and I have to admit, with St. Patrick's Day right around the corner, we are all thinking "Irish". This sounds like a wonderful book and one I am sure to enjoy. Thank you for sharing this most excellent book review.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Ancestry research is one of my most favorite things to do. In fact, as a member of Ancestry.com, when I need to unwind, I head over to do more investigating. We're close in Ancestry as I have a prominent Scottish background (as well as French of course). As we get older I find we want to learn more about our backgrounds to pass down to our kids.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Through Geni.com and massive research there I found out I'm descended from all 21 Kings of ancient Ireland, so have a real connection to this beautiful island nation.

    ReplyDelete