Galway Bay by Mary Pat Kelly
Here at last is one Irish family's epic journey, capturing the tragedy and triumph of the Irish-American experience. In a rousing tale that echoes the myths and legends of Ireland herself, young Honora Keeley and Michael Kelly wed and start a family, inhabiting a hidden Ireland where fishermen and tenant farmers find solace in their ancient faith, songs, stories, and communal celebrations. Selling both their catch--and their crops--to survive, these people subsist on the potato crop--their only staple food. But when blight destroys the potatoes three times in four years, a callous government and uncaring landlords turn a natural disaster into The Great Starvation that will kill one million. Honora and Michael vow their children will live. The family joins two million other Irish refugees in one of the greatest rescues in human history: the Irish Emigration to America. Danger and hardship await them there. Honora and her unconventional sister Maire watch their seven sons as they transform Chicago from a frontier town to the "City of the Century", fight the Civil War, and enlist in the cause of Ireland's freedom. The Kelly clan is victorious. This heroic story sheds brilliant light on the ancestors of today's 44 million Irish Americans.
In the author's colorful and eclectic life, she has written and directed award-winning documentaries on Irish subjects, as well as the dramatic feature Proud. She's been an associate producer on Good Morning America and Saturday Night Live, written books on Martin Scorsese, World War II, and Bosnia, and a novel based on her experiences as a former nun - Special Intentions. She is a frequent contributor to Irish America Magazine and has a PhD in English and Irish literature.
Blog Talk Radio
|Show Name:||Live St. Patrick's Day Interview with Mary Pat Kelly author of GALWAY BAY|
Mary Pat Kelly is the author of a novel Special Intentions, and nonfiction on subjects as varied as Martin Scorcese and the rescue of Scott O'Grady from Bosnia. In her life, she has been everything from a nun to a documentary filmmaker to a producer of short films for "Saturday Night Live". She lives in New York, NY. GALWAY BAY is a novel based on her own family's immigration story from Ireland to the US.
The bones of GALWAY BAY come from my own family history, a story I discovered slowly over decades of research. In the beginning tracing my roots meant cranking through reels and reels of microfilm in a fruitless search. To access the U.S. Census records I needed the address where the Kelly’s first lived in Chicago, which I did not have.
Then I realized my father’s first cousin, Sister Mary Erigina, BVM might know. She did. Born Agnella Kelly in 1889, she had in fact lived with her great grandmother Honora Kelly. Agnella lived to be 107, her mind sharp and her interest keen.
Now I found the right reel. Here were the names of Honora’s children, their ages, but nothing about where they came from in Ireland. Finally I followed the trail to Galway and discovered at last the record of the birth of Honora Keeley, September 15, 1822. And the place? A fishing village right on the shores of Galway Bay. The cottages were gone but the Bay was the same. I stood on the beach looking out, and could almost see my great-great-great-grandfather John Keeley setting out in a pucán, guided by a knowledge of winds, currents, and the patterns followed by the fish themselves that he’d learned from past generations. I went to the site of the fish market in Galway City and imagined Honora and her mother selling the catch under the Spanish Arch, bargaining and trading, handling money. Rare for women of that time. How did that shape their character? read more...
The Potato Famine: A Memorial
Galway Bay is an extremely well written book. This novel may be based upon the history of Mary Pat Kelly's family and the story of their starvation in Ireland during The Potato Famine in the 19Th century but it doesn't read like a dry-as-dust history tome. I was thoroughly caught up in the narrative and shocked, saddened and inspired by this family. This family's history is just one triumphant saga of the horrific moment in history when the Irish people were almost wiped out by the potato blight that killed off their only food source. A very enjoyable read.
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