The Irish in America


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Getting Started… A Summer Book Club!

We heard from a few of you last week with great suggestions for The Irish in America Laid Back Summer Book Club. It’s laid back because no one is trying to boss you around, tell you what to read and when to finish. We’re just here, taking/making suggestions, learning about Irish American authors and chatting about books.

Back in May, Regan and I simultaneously read Saints for All Occasions, by J. Courtney Sullivan. Since Regan and I are neighbors, we found ourselves talking a lot about the book as we read it. This made me more critical of the book than was perhaps necessary. Has anyone else read the book? I’d like to hear what you thought. Leave a comment or complete the form at the end of the post.

 

AINE’S CURRENT SELECTION…

Eileen suggested an Alice McDermott novel. Since I usually follow Eileen’s advice, I chose At Weddings and Wakes, McDermott’s 1992 novel. McDermott has several books from which to choose, but this one felt right for a summer read. The book begins in the summer and the stifling heat in the Brooklyn apartment McDermott describes is not unlike what we had in Saint Paul over the weekend, although I do enjoy air conditioning!

I am on page fifty-four, and I love this book. McDermott is a beautiful writer. I am not a fan of overly descriptive, flowery language – when I feels as though the author is trying to impress me with their writing. McDermott is the opposite of that. She writes with confidence. Her descriptions are integral to developing the characters, to telling the story.

One of my favorite passages so far is on page eight where McDermott describes the three children from the perspective of their fellow passengers on a subway car. This is the youngest daughter:

And then, nearly dangling from her mother’s arm, another in the same white eyelet dress. No beauty here, what with the freckles on the moon face and those small green eyes, but it was she they smiled at, those who smiled, she who drew them to smile up at the mother (the door sliding shut behind her, cutting off the noise), whose face brought to mind not only the map of Ireland, but the names of two or three other women they knew who looked just or something like her.

Isn’t that great? I can picture the girl (and the two or three or four other women) exactly.

Click here for a review of At Weddings and Wakes.

Let me know if you decide to read this book…we can discuss!

 

WHAT’S REGAN READING?

Regan is currently reading Ashes of Fiery Weather, by Kathleen Donohoe. Stay tuned to the blog, she will tell us all about it. You can also follow Regan on Twitter…click here.

 

WHAT ARE YOU READING?

NEXT UP FOR AINE…

Mary suggested King Kong vs. Tarzan, by Will Murray. Looking forward to this one…more about the book and its Irish-American author coming soon!

 

JUST WONDERING…

I include links to amazon.com because that’s where I buy a lot of my books. Where do you get yours? I will include links for you, too. If you go to your local library – or your sister’s bookshelf – you will be on your own!

 

 

 


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Summer Reading: The Irish in America

Memorial Day is in the rearview mirror, the school year is winding down and the air has turned heavy and warm…summer has arrived in Saint Paul! It’s time to assemble your summer reading list, hit the pool/beach/lake/air-conditioned living room, and start reading!

I plan on doing a lot of reading this summer so I thought it might be fun to start an Irish American Book Club here on the blog. I’ve never been much for the traditional book club. I like to discuss books as I am reading them. It’s hard for me to save up all my key points and insights for the monthly club meeting. I also don’t like the pressure involved in the typical book club – I don’t like people telling me what book to read and when to read it.

This will be a different kind of book club. I am not exactly sure how it will take shape, but for starters, I would like to hear what Irish American books have been on your radar lately. I need some suggestions as to what I should read this summer and I would like to hear what people think about what they’re reading.

Make suggestions, give feedback. Here are a few guidelines:

  • Books should be by an Irish-American author or have a subject involving the Irish in America, but needn’t be both.
  • Readers will share what they are reading and will be honest with their critiques and praise.
  • We will have fun reading!

Regan (my sis) and I got a head start and read Saints for All Occasions by J. Courtney Sullivan. It is a novel about two Irish sisters who move to Boston in the 1950’s. Immediately I thought of Maureen Teahan Murray, the lovely contributor to the blog who passed away last summer. Maureen came to Boston from Milltown, County Kerry in 1947. She and her sister landed in New York just in time for the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade before heading north to Boston to begin their new lives. (Click here for more about Maureen and links to her delightful essays.)

I also thought about Colm Toibin’s Brooklyn, a book I loved. The movie was great as well, but the book was better. However, I put all of this out of my mind when I began reading Saints for All Occasions because I wanted to have an open mind. I didn’t want to compare it to a real-life situation or another novel.

Has anyone else read Saints for All Occasions? I would love to hear what you thought of it. I think it is a perfect summertime “beach read.” It is just over 300 pages and it goes pretty quickly. Regan and I discussed it as we read, carefully monitoring where the other was in the story as to not spoil anything. Leave a comment and let us know what you thought!

If you have book ideas or thoughts on Saints for All Occasions, tweet me @ainemccormack1…I’d love to hear from you!

Happy Summer!!!!