WINTER 2016-2017 / VOL. 16 ISSUE 1

Easy Reading for a Snowy Winter
By Martin Russell,
Irish American Book Editor

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One can’t escape winter, but a book or Nook aficionado can put stormy winds aside with these following seasonal reads. Here are a few recent favorites, albeit in no particular order. Just snuggle into your favorite easy chair and begin to read.
Spare and Found Parts, Sarah Maria Griffin
(Greenwillow Books, 394 pp).

Dublin resident Sarah Maria Griffin captures the wild heart of Nell Crane, always and outsider. The heroine is a survivor in a world of biomechanical limbs that allow her to survive an epidemic that devastates her community. This is a grand, gripping read for teen (and older) fans of the almost-end-of-the-world genre.

The Emerald Lie, Ken Bruen (Grove Atlantic, 345 pp). 

Master thriller author Ken Bruen’s bad boy ex-Garda Jack Taylor is at it again, wrestling his own interior demons while solving Galway’s most sticky crimes. If only Taylor could skip the pints, the Jameson’s chasers and pills, a reader can only imagine what he could do next. As it is, however, in spite of his personal psychological mixups, Taylor does quite well this time in chasing down a murderer with a penchant for good grammar. So maybe an occasional snort or two is okay.

A Slanting of the Sun, Donal Ryan (Steerforth Press, 205 pp). 

Donal Ryan is a premiere short story writer who captures passion on every page. He finds drama in the nuanced mundane, shapes it and returns it all in glorious literary fashion. Characters range from a plucky African immigrant in Ireland, a hurley-playing priest and an elderly man confronting a burglar. Ryan hails from Nenagh, Co. Tipperary and now lives near Limerick City with his family. He is the happy recipient of the 2015 European Union Prize for Literature.

Valiant Gentlemen, Sabina Murray (Grove Atlantic, 489 pp). 

Sabina Murray has had a roundabout life, growing up in Australia and the Philippines before settling into academics and authoring. A faculty member at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst, Murray has won a PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction among other honors. This latest story follows Irish rebel Roger Casement and his pal Herbert Ward, along with Ward’s wife Srita Sanford, on adventures across several continents prior to World War I. Each individual takes different paths toward his or her own form of heroism when the horrific conflict eventually rips their worlds apart. The heat of love and agony of betrayal make for a brilliant combo for exploring the human psyche.

The Letters of Samuel Beckett, 1966-1989, edited by George Craig, Martha Dow Fehsenfeld, Dann Gunn and Lois More Overbeck 
(Cambridge University Press, 837 pp). 

The doughty editors of this hefty tome have assembled every jot and tittle flowing from Samuel Beckett’s eloquent pen. Signed mostly as "Sam" and sometimes even written in French, these long, medium and short notes clarify what is racing through his mind and heart during the periods studied. Other authors, plus friends, editors, publishers and an additional assortment of related characters in his life are recipients of this flow. Exhaustive notes help in tracking all the book’s components.

The Girls of Innismore, Patricia Flavey (Kensington Books, 358 pp). 

Irish born author Patrick Flavey now writes from her home in Dallas. The "girls" are Upstairs and Downstairs heroines, Victoria Bell from the Big House, Rosie Killen from a humble cottage. Their lives become intertwined as they bloom into womanhood, needing to confront their fears and loves as the Great War breaks out and Ireland’s political and social landscape changes forever. As the world twirls around them, the two women face their own uncertain tomorrows with courage.

The Girl Who Came Home: A Novel of the Titanic, Hazel Gaynor 
(William Morrow, 362 pp). 

Maggie Murphy, with a group of friends and neighbors, leaves Ireland on Titanic to find a new life in a New World. With the ship’s shattering collision with an iceberg in 1912, Maggie is one of the few survivors in the steerage section to survive an era’s most famous shipwreck. The young woman must then confront those terrors throughout the remainder of her life, even upon her return to her home parish decades after the fact. It is a true homecoming.

The Lesser Bohemians, Eimear McBride 
(Hogarth/Penguin/Random House, 321 pp), 

This debut novel focuses on an innocent 18-year-old Irish girl arriving in London to study theater. She becomes swept up in the city’s vibrant nightlife and wild times, becoming the lover of an older man. Even with their exploding passion, both must exorcise personal demons raging from the past that threaten their relationship. Finding redemption is certainly a challenge. Eimear McBride grew up in Ireland and now lives in the United Kingdom with her family.

May the Road Rise Up to Meet You, Peter Troy
(Doubleday, 388 pp).

Set against the horrors of the American Civil War, four disparate personalities form a tight bond. There is Ethan, an Irish immigrant, society belle Marcella and slaves Mary and Micah. Author Peter Troy, who calls New York state his home, has a lyrical way of meshing his characters’ dreams. Most assuredly, the road does rise up for each hero.

A Poet’s Dublin, Eavan Boland (W.W. Norton & Company, 138 pp). 

What is a winter without poetry to warm the heart? Famed writer Eavan Boland tackles the Irish capital as only she can, seeing her favorite city in all its history and zest for life. Collected from over the years, this is an excellent compendium of what it means to live and love in Dub City. Photos of Dublin are matched to each poem. Boland moves easily between her homes in California and Ireland, finding time to write more than a dozen volumes of poetry amid her travels.

The Tweetable Pope: 
A Spiritual Revolution in 140 Characters
Michael J. O’Loughlin
(HarperOne, 248 pp). 

One of the most interesting and enjoyable reads for this season is Michael O’Loughlin’s collected of papal tweets. He places Pope Francis in the forefront of theo-technology, whenever the pontiff uses his 140-character messages to teach and spiritually guide. Chapters such as "prayer," "sports," "war" and "immigration" offer insights that go beyond Francis’ mere tweets. As evidenced by these messages, he is encouraging everyone to respect others, work for peace, pray for enlightenment and tend to the downtrodden. Yale Divinity School grade O’Loughlin is a Boston Globe columnist covering Catholic issues and occasionally reports from Rome. He currently lives in Chicago.


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