Mary Pat Kelly
Grand Central, Feb 8 2011, $15.99
In 1839 in Ireland, Honora Keeley and Michael Kelly meet when he was swimming in Galway Bay just before she is to enter a convent. They fall in love and to the chagrin of her father, they marry. Though times are tough life is good for the couple as they survive like most Irish Catholics on pratties (potatoes).
However as the Protestant leadership cracks down economically on the Catholics, three bad crops in four years leave the young wondering whether it is time to leave to start over elsewhere. The Kelly couple moves to Chicago where his brother Patrick lives. There they begin a new life hoping to catch the vaunted American dream.
The scenes in Ireland are incredibly haunting as people are caught up in the avarice of others and want to change a bad situation; similar to the financial crisis now. The story line purposely simmers slowly so that fans of historical epics can taste what the key players are feeling over the years especially in Chicago. However, that also serves as a two edged sword as that leads to skipped decades and a horde of resilient expatriates. Still this nineteenth century saga provides readers with a deep look at the potato famine made worse by greed while celebrating five decades of Irish American life in Chicago.