Review of Books

By Irish America Staff
September/October 2018

Recently-published books of Irish and Irish American interest.

FICTION

Every Breath You Take

By Mary Higgins Clark & Alafair Burke

The latest thriller and newest undertaking in the Under Suspicion series by Mary Higgins Clark, co-authored with Alafair Burke, shows that the authors’ 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, Under Suspicion, 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 investigative team explores the woman’s layered private life, uncovering new information and suspects with every sharp twist and turn. 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

Sheila Connolly’s Murder at the Mansion is a good, fast-paced read that’s perfect for a plane ride. In it, Katherine Hamilton’s 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, Katherine 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 with her plan to save the town and her growing fascination with the old house. Connolly has published over 30 books, including the popular County Cork Mystery series. A former genealogist and historian, her books all feature strong female central characters and always impart a historical lesson or two. Warning: once you start reading Connolly’s books, you can’t put them down.

– Patricia Harty

(Minotaur / 336 pp. / $26.99)

Straying 

By Molly McCloskey

Straying

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 shores. 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 Alice’s 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 transformation.

 – Mary Gallagher

(Scribner / 214 pp. / $24)

NON-FICTION

To Struggle With Hope

By Geraldine O’Connell Cusack

To Struggle With Hope

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.

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 the world.

– 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

 

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’s 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. 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’s 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 Medb and Cúchulainn, 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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