"After years of favorite stories, told over and over by Mother and others,My comments: This is the story of Thomas Rice, the only son of Maggie and Arty Rice, a boy who grew up in a farmhouse in Ballinvalley in rural Ireland, a boy afraid of the dark and the banshees of Celtic folklore, keening "women of the fairies" which his older sisters used to tease him about. Thomas leaves school at age 13 to help with the farm, in the absence of his charismatic but troubled father who left the family and who only showed up every now and then, with disastrous results.
I had it down. I knew her journey in detail,
from her early childhood to her becoming the famous Maggie O'Toole, to her romance with Artie Rice
and giving birth to eight children..." (ch. 2)
Thomas becomes successful at farming in Ballinvalley, working with a neighbor Davy, who teaches him about horses and the land, but as a young teen he still longs for something different. At age 16 he and Maggie leave Ballinvalley for Sheffield, but he finds the taunting on the job and hardship in England too much to bear. They finally sail on the Queen Mary for America and arrive in New York on July 4, 1959.
Here's what he says about his yearning for a life beyond home:
Each success in Ballinvalley had the paradoxical effect of reminding me of how hollow these
achievements had become.
Without knowing it, I'd become obsessed with the question
of what lay beyond that majestic sycamore grove
on the skyline over Borris - the one I'd taken
for granted each day for sixteen years -
and that I now say only as a barrier
between me and whatever lay beyond the thundering waves
of the blue-green Irish Sea. (ch. 23)
Recommendations: I found out a lot about the history of Ireland in this excellent and well-written memoir of coming-of-age in 1940s and 1950s Ireland. The memoir incorporates the history of life under the British, the fight for Irish independence in the 1920s and the hardship of life when Thomas Rice was growing up in the 1940s-50s. It also tells about daily life on a farm in rural Ireland and the community and closeness of the people.
Author: Thomas J. Rice received a scholarship to Cornell University, earned his doctoral degree, and is a college professor, leadership consultant, and social activist. He lives in Andover, Mass. Far from the Land: An Irish Memoir was published in 2009. Source: Free review book provided by Jane Wesman Public Relations, Inc.
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Challenge: 100 + Reading Challenge