It was an honor to write Galway Bay because through the process I met my great-great-grandmother, who kept her children alive in the most horrific circumstances and got them to America. How did she do it?
Her family faced the Great Starvation in Ireland of 1845-1849. One million died. Yes, a natural calamity destroyed the potato, the people’s food, but it was the policies of the British government that allowed the famine to happen.
The more I learned, the more impossible it seemed that anyone from the devastated West of Ireland had survived. But they did. They escaped to America in one of the greatest rescues in human history. The victims saved each other. I was alive because of the courage of this woman, yet I had no notion of the story until I started to read Irish literature in the 1970s. And even then, the famine was a kind of black hole – not spoken about.
Certainly, growing up in Chicago, I had never realized that my ancestors had suffered. I was Irish and delighted to be, but I didn’t connect that with the actual country of Ireland, nor did most Irish-Americans. We’d created an identity and prospered but I don’t think we understood how much they had to leave behind – a language spoken for two thousand years, stories that informed their lives and shaped their consciousness and because of that surely had some influence on who we were – all gone or diminished.
I only started to touch the truth in conversations with my father’s cousin, a nun who lived to be a hundred and seven and who knew my great-great-grandmother Honora in the 1880s. For twenty-five years I’ve been researching here and in Ireland and trying to imagine this young couple, Honora and Michael Kelly – married at eighteen and nineteen years old – with three little children when the blight struck. I knew Honora had a sister and I know how sisters support each other. I learned Michael Kelly was a piper, evicted from his land. I saw that in spite of all the persecution, injustice and suffering, the Irish spirit was not broken.
“We wouldn’t die, and that annoyed them.” Yes, the English had been trying to rid Ireland of the Irish for centuries, but inexplicably they held on, nourished by songs and stories and a faith much deeper than the institutional Church. Only the Great Famine defeated them, and even then they escaped and triumphed – they built America, fought the civil war and survived.
Discovering the details of the Irish story brought me closer to every immigrant’s story, and all the strong women who have somehow survived and kept their children alive.
I’m grateful for this sense of connection.
Mary Pat, thanks so much for joining us today and sharing your thoughts with us. I look forward to reading more from you in the future.
If you missed it yesterday there was a wonderful little chat at Blog Talk Radio with Mary Pat and you can listen to that here.
Book Description and Author Information
Here at last is one Irish family’s epic journey, capturing the tragedy and triumph of the Irish-American experience. In a rousing tale that echoes the myths and legends of Ireland herself, young Honora Keeley and Michael Kelly wed and start a family, inhabiting a hidden Ireland where fishermen and tenant farmers find solace in their ancient faith, songs, stories, and communal celebrations. Selling both their catch–and their crops–to survive, these people subsist on the potato crop–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 refugees in one of the greatest rescues in human history: the Irish Emigration to America. Danger and hardship await them there. Honora and her unconventional sister Maire watch their seven sons as they transform Chicago from a frontier town to the “City of the Century”, fight the Civil War, and enlist in the cause of Ireland’s freedom. The Kelly clan is victorious. This heroic story sheds brilliant light on the ancestors of today’s 44 million Irish Americans. In the author’s colorful and eclectic life, she has written and directed award-winning documentaries on Irish subjects, as well as the dramatic feature Proud. She’s been an associate producer on Good Morning America and Saturday Night Live, written books on Martin Scorsese, World War II, and Bosnia, and a novel based on her experiences as a former nun – Special Intentions. She is a frequent contributor to Irish America Magazine and has a PhD in English and Irish literature.
- For one entry leave me a comment with an email address. No email address, no entry.
- Blog about this giveaway and spread the word for two entries.
- Follow my blog and get three entries (if you’re already a follower, let me know-that counts too)
I will draw for the winner on March 29, 2009. Good luck everyone! Galway Bay really is a wonderful novel to relax with and savour.
Oh I’ve been really wanting to read this!!! Thank you for the giveaway! My email is nycbookgirl(at)gmail(dot)com
And I follow your blog. Thanks!
I would love to win, so I best enter!
Sign me up, Dar!
meah56 AT gmail DOT com
I’ll blog the giveaway in my side bar.
I follow you in Google reader : )
Marie Burton says
Your contest has been blogged at http://burtonreview.blogspot.com
(I am also having a giveaway there..nudge nudge)
Please enter me in your contest..
Thank you very much for the opportunity!
I’d love to read this book. Please enter me.
Great contest Dar. Your review made me want to give this one a try. firstname.lastname@example.org
This sounds like a book I would be interested in reading. Please enter me:
I’ve been hearing such great things about this book. Please count me in! Thank you!
nfmgirl AT gmail DOT com
I’m really hoping I win this 🙂 Fingers and toes are crossed.
Oh, and of course I follow you as well.
This sounds like a wonderful story! please enter me. And I follow your blog already.
Melissa - Shhh I'm Reading says
I’ve been seeing lots of great reviews on this one, and would love to read it.
I already follow too. 🙂
I would like to read this.
I’m already a follower.
Sounds wonderful! I’m in an Irish mood this month, of course.
I’m already a follower.
saz AT chainreader DOT com
All of your posts have gotten me pretty excited to read this book!! I’m rolling the dice to see if I can win it. I’m a follower..of course, and I posted your giveaway on my sidebar!!
This was a great guest post Dar! It must have been amazing for her to uncover all of these treasures as she was doing her research! Please enter me in this contest.
I’m also a follower…
Yeah I want to win!
I already follow your blog!
kherbrand at comcast dot net
I would love the opportunity to read this book; I love family sagas.
Susan Helene Gottfried says
Holy smoke, you’ve got a following!
No need to enter me, much as I’d LOVE to read this (I’ve got the PO Box problem. sort of; I could work around it). I’m just dropping in to say thanks for the e-mail. I’ve got this up at Win a Book for ya.
I’m dying to read this. I will post it in my sidebar later today.
carolsnotebook at yahoo dot com
Enter me please. This sounds like a really great book that I’ve been dying to read. Thanks!
i also blogged this at: http://olympianlady.livejournal.com/6087.html
I’d love to win this book! I love the cover! Thanks for entering me!
I follow your blog!
I would love to win a copy of this book to read and then share with my dad!
I’d love to read this. I love the reviews!
I would like to be included.
I’m a follower.
This looks really awesome, I’d love to snag a copy!
I’m also a follower; plus, your layout is really cute.
Please enter me in this giveaway! I enjoy your blog. I think this is a good read!
JodiMof3 at hotmail dot com
I would love to be entered in the giveaway! Thank you!
Amy @ Passages to the Past says
Please throw my name in there and I am most definitely a follower =) After all these great reviews I’m pretty excited to read it.
I’d love a chance to win!
Please enter me! Thanks!
nbmars AT yahoo DOT com
Teddy Rose says
No need to enter me, I was part of the tour. I really enjoyed the book! I knew very little about the Potatoe famine and the plight of the Irish before I read this wonderful book. Thanks to Mary Pat Kelly for bringing this to us. I have been enjoying all of your guest posts and interviews.
Gwendolyn B. says
I would love to read this book — I’m looking for something to get really lost in, and this sounds like it! Thank you for the chance to win a copy!
geebee.reads AT gmail DOT com
Gwendolyn B. says
. . . and, I’m a Follower!
geebee.reads AT gmail DOT com
Please throw my name in!
This book sounds great! 🙂
I’m subscribed to you on Google(I don’t know if that counts).
Jenny Girl says
THis sounds like an amazing story that must be read. Please enter me. And of course I already follow you 🙂
Red lady-Bonnie says
What a great guest post! It’s fascinating to hear the back story on a book and this one was so interesting. I am intrigued by immigrant stories. I’d love to win a copy of this book!
Of course, I am already a follower of your blog!!
Now I really must read this story! Wow! I don’t read too many stories set in Ireland but I do enjoy those that I do read.
I’d love to win a copy of this one – so many bloggers are raving about it!
nnjmom at yahoo dot com
I subscribe to your blog on Google Reader – that’s how I knew about your giveaway!
Dawn M. says
The more I hear about this book the more I want to read it. I love multi-generational stories. :0)
librarygrinch at gmail dot com
I blogged about your contest here.
Thank you for the entry.
would like to be entered. thanks!
My great-grandmother came from Ireland to Canada as a young girl in the early 1900’s. I’d love a chance to win this book!
I am already a follower and have posted about this giveaway here: http://aseasontoread.blogspot.com/2009/02/who-would-like-to-win-book.html
Ooh, enter me please. I’ve only heard good things about this one. Thanks.
I blogged about your giveaway:
Thanks again for the chance to win!
nnjmom at yahoo dot com
Karen in TN says
Please enter me in the giveaway. I follow via googlereader.
kolists a\t gmail do\t com
wonderful guest post, this book does sound great.
Its always interesting hearing about the authors inspiration.
I have been wanting to read this one especially since our family is very Irish 🙂
This sounds really interesting! Count me in!
I follow you on Google Reader 🙂
Hi, I’d like to enter the draw please, thanks!
dreamsongpoem at gmail dot com
Anita Yancey says
I have seen some reviews on this book, and I really want to read it. Please enter me. Thanks!
I’d like to read this. Thanks!!
Cheryl S. says
I’m so looking forward to reading this book – please count me in!
No need to enter me. Just wanted to say this was a great guest post. I really enjoy hearing what inspired authors to write their books and what they learned along the way.
Diary of an Eccentric
I’m in! I love reading books like this and I have been to Galway Bay! My e-mail address is: email@example.com. Thanks for having the giveaway!
I keep hearing good things about this book. I would love to read Galway Bay.
No need to enter me, but I wanted to say that not only is this book moving, but so too is her guest post. I love that she discovered her ancestry and uncovered the truth.
I’d love to win a copy of Galway Bay.
Ally M says
Being of Irish ancestry on both sides of my family this is a book I want to read. Thanks for the chance to win.
rubymoonstone at gmail dot com
Would love to win this book. Sounds like a great read.
Please count me in, Dar, this book sounds fascinating! And of course I’m a follower!
Debs Desk says
Please include me in your giveaway.