Weekly Comment:
Our Summer Reading List

Marilyn Monroe reading Ulysses. Photo: Orionpozo, Flickr.

By Irish America Staff

FICTION

Every Breath You Take

By Mary Higgins Clark & Alafair Burke

Every Breath You Take, by Mary Higgins Clark.

The latest thriller and newest undertaking in the Under Suspicion series by Mary Higgins Clark, co-authored with Alafair Burke, shows that the author’s talent for weaving an intense, fast-paced suspense story has not diminished in the slightest over the course of her career. The book finds protagonist Laurie Moran, whose TV show examines cold cases and attempts to solve them (at an unprecedented success rate), as she tackles the murder of aging socialite and philanthropist Virginia Wakeling. The Under Suspicion team explores the woman’s layered private life, uncovering new information and suspects with every sharp twist and turn – the likes of which only Clark is capable.

Throughout it all is the intergenerational bond between Laurie, her father Leo, and her son Timmy, which relieves some of the dramatic tension built up by the troubling investigation, and reveals Clark’s consummate skill that transcends the mystery genre and establishes her as an iconic novelist. – Mary Gallagher

(Simon & Schuster / 304 pp. / $26.99)

 

Murder at the Mansion

By Sheila Connolly

Murder at the Mansion, by Sheila Connolly.

Sheila Connolly’s Murder at the Mansion is a good fast-paced read that’s perfect for a day at the beach. In it, Katherine Hamilton returns to her hometown of Asheford, Maryland to help the town, which is on the verge of going bankrupt. A few days later, at the huge Victorian mansion just outside the town that is central to her revitalization plan, she stumbles over the body of her high school nemesis, Cordelia Walker.

The mansion has its own long-hidden mysteries, and Kate finds herself juggling the murder investigation and clearing her own name, with her plan to save the town, and her growing fascination with the old house. Connolly has published over 30 books, including several New York Times bestsellers. A dual American and Irish citizen, she lives in Massachusetts with her husband and cats and has a cottage in Cork. – Patricia Harty

(Minotaur / 336 pp. / $26.99)

 

Straying

By Molly McCloskey

Straying, by Molly McCloskey.

Molly McCloskey is a critically acclaimed Irish author and her new novel Straying marks her first American publication, much to the benefit of readers on our shore. Following a non-linear storyline that tackles complicated issues of personal identity, marital infidelity, and loss, the book tracks crucial points in the life of Alice, a middle-aged American looking to rebuild her life in Dublin. Alice’s experiences as a 1980s twentysomething exploring Ireland for the first time are countered poignantly by the reflections of her older, wiser, present self, who seeks solace from grief at the death of her mother and a new understanding of her terminated marriage by returning to Dublin.

Flashbacks to relations with her mother and mostly-absent father, her nomadic lifestyle, and her lifelong sense of isolation combine to create a flawed yet compelling heroine. Straying is as much a coming of age story as it is one of healing, with Ireland’s own economic progress from the 1980s to the present underscoring Alice’s own transformation. – Mary Gallagher

(Scribner / 214 pp. / $24)

 

NON-FICTION

Promise Me, Dad

By Joe Biden

Promise Me, Dad, by former Vice President Joe Biden.

Promise Me, Dad toggles between three narrative strands: Biden’s work as vice president, the 2016 presidential election and his difficult decision not to run, and, of course, the tragic loss of his son Beau, who died at 46 after a grueling battle with brain cancer. Throughout the taut and unflinching book, a narrative strand of the minute movement of time takes place.

“We were either going to beat Beau’s illness or not, and we had a very narrow window,” Biden told the New York Times in an interview shortly after publication. “My assignments at the White House were similar. They weren’t about managing relationships; they were crisis management.” In both worlds, decisions, successes or failures, could be determined by minutes or even seconds. And this urgency combines with Biden’s palpable optimism in the face of dire circumstances at home and abroad to create a moving and human portrait of grief and how to progress after tragedy. – Adam Farley

(Flatiron / 260 pp. / $27)

 

To Struggle with Hope

By Geraldine O’Connell Cusack

To Struggle with Hope, by Geraldine O’Connell Cusack

Geraldine O’Connell Cusack spent most of her life working on American Indian reservations and in the developing world. To Struggle with Hope is a montage of thoughts, ideas, and propositions arrived at over the years when she began to understand the world as the dispossessed see it – and not as we might wish they would.

Geraldine O’Connell Cusack is also one of a growing number of thinkers within Irish society who are witnessing the steady erosion of national cultures and values by the European Union – and who are fighting back. Global influence and economic power has become the driving force within the E.U. at the expense of national identities. To Struggle with Hope offers a new direction, not only for Ireland, but for Great Britain and northern Europe as well. Read To Struggle with Hope. You might find yourself in agreement. – E.O.

(Lulu Publishing Services / Available on Kindle or Nook / $7.99)

 

THROWBACK

How the Irish Saved Civilization

By Thomas Cahill

How the Irish Saved Civilization, by Thomas Cahill.

Thomas Cahill’s groundbreaking account of how Irish monks ushered in the European medieval era from the remnants of the Roman Empire was an immediate hit when it was first published in 1995, remaining on the New York Times’ bestseller list for nearly two years. If you’re looking to revisit an Irish American classic, we recommend Cahill’s endlessly digestible and entertaining portrait of a country on the periphery and the characters who would turn it into a hive of scholarship.

There are Saints Patrick (“the first human being in the history of the world to speak out unequivocally against slavery,” in Cahill’s classic hyperbole) and Augustine (“father of the Inquisition”) of course, but also Irish “barbarians” like Queen Madb and Cuchulainn, as well as Ausonius, a Roman poet and professor from Bordeaux – all brought to life vividly and with considerable, but welcome, creative embellishment. Scholars can debate the veracity of Cahill’s central thesis, but they can’t argue with his wry and pithy descriptions, delightful storytelling, and fervor for championing unsung Irish. – Adam Farley

(Nan A. Talese / 246 pp. / $16) ♦

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