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Wednesday, December 3, 2008

The Sense of Place, Part 4 – AN IRISHWOMAN'S TALE by Patti Lacy

Did you ever dream of going to Ireland? Of visiting the wild cliffs above a foamy sea? Sipping tea in a thatched cottage? I have. And what a delight to take this vicarious trip to the Emerald Isle through the pages of An Irishwoman’s Tale by debut author, Patti Lacy.

As I’ve been doing for several weeks, I’m talking about the lagniappe (something extra) that a rich setting brings to a book. Characters are what makes us care, and plots make our hearts race, but oh, how lush settings plant our feet and feed our wanderlust.

An Irishwoman’s Tale is a framed story, told to a friend. Mary Freeman’s earliest memories haunt her—being ripped from her mother in Ireland and sent to Chicago as a young girl. There she grew up in a complicated home, and now cares for an aging mother, trying to balance her contemporary life with a good husband and two daughters. If only the memories didn’t get in the way.

What drew me in and fascinated me about this book:
  • Mary’s ordinary world—family, tennis at the club, a seemingly happy woman you might meet at the market or in church on Sunday. But she cares for an aging mother in the throes of Alzheimer’s whose rants are laced with an Irish brogue. You feel almost at once a connection to Ireland.
  • Irish roots. Details here of Mary’s early childhood. Poverty. Harsh, bitter words. Well drawn characters that would be out of place anywhere else. You feel the mist in the air as Mary walks the cobbled paths and finds herself on the rocky cliffs high above the ocean. A little too much description in places, but there is a real sense of being in County Clare, of inhaling the dung in the barnyard, and viewing the simple, impoverished life of the Irish—not only in the past, but in the present as well. It’s a land that has not progressed with the rest of the world in the wilds where Mary was born.
  • Spiritual reawakening. The heart can be a place, especially when it’s churning with turmoil, and I thought of Mary’s heart as a metaphor for her past. Until the past is resolved, her heart can’t be at rest. This is played out in a dramatic scene high on the cliffs where you could almost imagine Mary touching heaven. It is here she comes to grips with her past and her Savior. Very heartfelt moment.

    This is an ambitious book for a first-time author, and Patti has partnered a gripping story with a setting that is breathless. You can read more about Patti Lacy here and the book here.

    Next week we’ll travel back in time to the first Queen Elizabeth’s court. And the best part is you don’t have to wear a corset or carry a fan to be immersed in this vivid setting.

    Your turn. What’s the most exotic place you’ve ever traveled? Please share with all of us here at the Café.

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