Tuesday, February 26, 2013


This is a lovely book by Colm Toibin that I read for my book group at the library, which is meeting tonight. I first read this several years ago and liked it, but on my way to Chapel Hill this past weekend,  I listened to it on CD in the car, and I liked it even more the second time.  Eilis Lacey is a young Irish girl from Enniscorthy, Ireland, who is living a pretty narrow life in the post-WWII years, under the thumb of her mother and older sister, and with few prospects for any meaningful work. When an Irish American priest, Father Flood, visits her family, he tells her mother and sister that he can find Eilis a job in America and before she knows it and without ever asking her if she wants to go,  Eilis is sent to America, where a job is found for her in a shop on Fulton Street in Brooklyn, and a room in a girls-only boardinghouse.  Eilis must adjust to everything new in this strange new country, and deal with her homesickness, but she does adjust, and gradually she makes friends, goes to dances, volunteers at the local parish, enrolls in night school, and falls in love with a big-hearted Italian guy. She learns that there is a big world outside of Ireland. Her teacher is a Holocaust survivor. Black women begin to come into the shop where she works. Eilis is a very well drawn character and it is fun to watch her grow and flourish, both intellectually and emotionally.

But then a death back home calls her back to Ireland and Eilis finds it hard to hold on to her two very different lives, the comfortable and secure life with family and friends  in Ireland, and her new life back in Brooklyn, which now feels like just a dream to her. Where is her home? This seems like a simple story, but there is a lot to think about in it, and Eilis especially seems so real and developed. This isn't a fast moving book with lots of action, but at the end I just kept thinking, what a great story it was. Beautifully written and a pleasure to read.

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