Call Me Kate by Molly Roe is a book on the shorter side but interesting nonetheless in that it taught me a bit about a time I really knew nothing about. Call Me Kate is about a few things – Irish immigrants trying to make it in America in the 1800’s, the coal miners in Pennsylvania and the hard life they lived and about a group called The Molly Maguires, who it is said were responsible for many coalfield crimes during the Civil War. What makes this book even more interesting is it’s based on the author’s ancestors and although this story is not an actual true story it is loosely based on the strong women who came before her in history.
This story is really about Katie McCafferty, a young teenage Irish girl whose family immigrated to America in the early 1800’s. The story opens with Katie’s father being injured in the mines which back in that time spelled catastrophe for the family. Without their father, the main bread winner in the family earning money, they would not have enough to pay the rent let alone for anything else they might need.
Katie gets a job helping a bachelor in town which enables the family to go on for a while but this job was only temporary and later she moves on to a better job a county away in the home of a mine owner. It is here that she really becomes more involved in the labor unrest as she is privy to many private conversations as she hides in the corners or cleans up rooms. What she learns angers her – mine owners are sending their Irish workers in to be drafted whether they want to be or not. Katie’s family knows many who would be sent that need to be home to care for their families.
In come the Molly Maguires, a secret organization of men very resistant to the draft, who are infuriated that for $300 a man could send a substitute for himself to war but who in those times could afford to do that. Nobody. The Mollies as they were called had many plans set up to thwart the trains coming in that were carrying men for certain death unless Katie could find a way to stop it all.
Just how does Katie discover all this? Well she dresses herself up with clothes and makeup as a stable boy and goes to the meetings herself in her efforts to protect her best friend Con. Yes, Katie is one spunky and determined girl. So, does Katie get discovered? Does she manage to save her friend or the train load of men?
I found Katie to be a great character. She was spunky and strong despite being young. I think growing up in those rough times caused a young person to grow up much faster than now. They had to work hard in the home and out to ensure that their families survived and nobody got away from it – from the youngest child to the oldest – they all had their tasks. As well, she was determined to make life better for woman. She was angry that only men had jobs that paid somewhat good in most cases and she wanted to change that. By the end of the novel she has a great plan for her future and one that shows just how much character Katie really has.
What I enjoyed most about Call Me Kate was it was a look into a time I didn’t know a lot about and I always enjoy learning a bit more about the history of our world. The only complaint I would have is that there was a lot of Irish slang used and I would have liked either some kind of explanation as I was reading or a glossary as I couldn’t find some of them even in the dictionary – I don’t know if the final printed copy has one but my eBook copy did not. However that is a very minor complaint. This book is worth reading for the history alone!
Disclosure: My copy of Call Me Kate by Molly Roe provided by Nicole at Tribute Books for a fair and honest review.
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