The story begins with Honora Keeley making plans to begin life as a nun. However, this is not to be. While walking along Galway Bay she sees a man, who appears to be drowning. He isn’t and he turns out to be none other than Michael Kelly, her future husband. Theirs is a love at first sight type of love story. From the beginning you feel the fierce love they share, the strong bond, the willingness to do anything for each other. They marry, although not without many hardships concerning Honora’s sister, Maire. Back in the day the landlords who the people leased their land from were allowed to take a bride price-meaning they could take the bride on her first night away from her husband. Honora’s sister saved her from that but unfortunately put herself into a very awful circumstance.
Honora and Michael make a home and are doing well. They build a home up on a hill overlooking Galway Bay with a big window just for Honora. They plant pratties-potatoes as all the community does-it is their only staple food as the government exports everything else. They will have food all winter or so they thought; unfortunately the blight hits Ireland hard and all the potatoes rot and are inedible. If this had happened for one year, families would have been able to survive. However, it continued on for four years and the government refused to help the people. People were starving and dying not only of starvation but of disease. Honora and Michael were devastated watching their children fading away to nothing. They vowed to each other that their children would live.
More tradegy hits the Kellys and Honora knows she must leave Ireland. She must do what she can for her family so she and Maire take their brood of children by ship to Chicago. America is a whole new world for them, one in which they aren’t easily accepted. Through pure strength of will though the two of them do succeed and do well in spite of everything. Their sons go to war, marry and have children of their own.
Mary Pat Kelly’s writing is wonderful. The research and family stories she put together for this novel amazing. Galway Bay spans six generations. I can’t help but admire having such a rich family history. Honora was, in fact, Mary’s great-great grandmother. This novel in turn made me laugh at times and cry at others. I was horrified by the hardships the family had in Ireland and elated at their victories in America. Mary Pat Kelly takes her readers so fully into the tale that you feel as though you are a part of it all-you made this journey with Honora and Maire and the kids to America. Again, this was a piece of history that I was unaware of and this novel has brought it to the forefront of my mind. As I write this I am watching a program on the The Great Famine on television. It was strange how it just happened to coincide with me finishing this novel. As I’m watching I am continually being reminded of the journey that Honora and Maire took and seeing the pictures and hearing the facts only makes it more scary to me. They were brave and amazing woman who single handedly made sure that there were generations of their family to come for a long time.
I would absolutely recommend this novel especially to those wanting to know more about the Irish-their faith, songs and stories and to those interested in learning a bit more about the struggle of the Irish during The Great Starvation. It’s almost impossible to encompass in a review all that this book holds. There is romance and history and above all, the enduring love of family-such a rich story so worth reading. I also have to mention the book cover itself which is absolutely beautiful. I would like to thank Miriam from Hachette for sending me this lovely book and having me participate in the blog tour for Galway Bay by Mary Pat Kelly.
- You can visit Mary Pat Kelly’s website here.
- You can visit Mary Pat Kelly’s blog here.
- You can read an article by Mary Pat Kelly on what an honor it was for her to write Galway Bay here.
- You can read a letter from Mary Pat Kelly on the research that went into the writing of Galway Bay here.