Eight years, yes, eight years ago I purchased this book and it has been sitting looking at me from my library shelf all that time. I have read many other books and yet this book kept waiting for me to pick it up. Finally I did and I cannot figure out what took me so long. This is a marvelous work by Colum McCann and one that is divided into 3 sections. The first section takes a look at three different trips from America to Ireland. The first by aviators in 1919, the two gentlemen that were first fly nonstop across the Atlantic Ocean. The next was a look at the 1846 trip by Frederick Douglass and what he encountered while in Ireland. The final trip is that of George Mitchell, the former U S Senator became the lead peace negotiator for what is now known as the Good Friday agreements. These are well written fictional accounts of actual events and I thought it gave a deep look into the minds of these gentlemen during their trips and while they were in Ireland.
The second portion of the book is about 3 generations of women and how their lives intersected the lives of these gentlemen in the first portion. We see the overlap in their stories, and we also learn much more about these women’s lives. The first was a servant in Ireland who eventually made it to America and faced sadness and difficulties as well as finding a new level of respect in this country. The second was her daughter who, due to no fault of her own, was unable to secure a job in America as a journalist, and instead moved to Canada where she raised her small daughter, and was present when those aviators flew over to Ireland in 1919, and who goes back to Europe in her old age to interview the one survivor of that flight. While there her daughter meets the man who will become her husband and she is the third story we follow. She loved tennis, it was from that love of tennis that she has a very brief encounter with George Mitchell but her life was so much more than that an encapsulates the hopes and dreams of Ireland.
The third section is about the final generation of women from the family, and the anguish that she felt when her son was taken from her when he was 19.
You can feel the pain and loss and heartache that this woman has suffered from as she is now the last of this family of women, there are no other heirs. But it is a resilient group of ladies who I think make up the best portion of this book.
This is a well written book, containing some beautiful language and some absolutely wonderful descriptive portions. On the whole I felt that the book was a very smooth read with the only real slow part being a portion of the Frederick Douglass trip. But despite those slow pages, this is a solid 5***** effort.