Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Review: Galway Bay & Giveaway

Summary: Here at last is one Irish family's epic journey, capturing the tragedy and triumph of the Irish-American experience. In a rousing tale that echoes the myths and legends of Ireland herself, young Honora Keeley and Michael Kelly wed and start a family, inhabiting a hidden Ireland where fishermen and tenant farmers find solace in their ancient faith, songs, stories, and communal celebrations. Selling both their catch--and their crops--to survive, these people subsist on the potato crop--their only staple food. But when blight destroys the potatoes three times in four years, a callous government and uncaring landlords turn a natural disaster into The Great Starvation that will kill one million. Honora and Michael vow their children will live. The family joins two million other Irish refugees in one of the greatest rescues in human history: the Irish Emigration to America. Danger and hardship await them there. Honora and her unconventional sister Maire watch their seven sons as they transform Chicago from a frontier town to the "City of the Century", fight the Civil War, and enlist in the cause of Ireland's freedom. The Kelly clan is victorious. This heroic story sheds brilliant light on the ancestors of today's 44 million Irish Americans. -- Grand Central Publishing

Happy St. Patrick's Day! And I can't think of a better way to celebrate than talking about GALWAY BAY by Mary Pat Kelly. I love that the bloggers voted for GALWAY BAY to be the March Early Birds Blog Tour book -- it is just so timely. Since I'm not Irish and don't really enjoy green beer, I never feel like I am "worthy" to celebrate this holiday; however, after reading this book, I definitely feel like an honorary Irishman this year!

As many of you know, I am always drawn to historical fiction books. GALWAY BAY was a wonderful read. I haven't read many books about Ireland and its history (and it's been a very long time since I've read Leon Uris' TRINITY), but I've always been very interested in the Irish people. Unfortunately, neither my husband nor I have any Irish blood in our veins; and I have to admit that I don't know much about Ireland's history beyond the potato blight in the mid 1800s. I think that's one of the reasons that I enjoyed GALWAY BAY so much was that it contained so much of Ireland's fascinating history.

When I first started this book, I was a little concerned about all of the native Irish words that were referenced. Most I could figure out from the sentences' context, but some had me wondering. I'm not sure if there were eventually less Irish words in the book or I got used to them, but by page 100 I wasn't having any issues with the language and I was totally caught up in the story. It wasn't until I had about 100 pages to go that I noticed there is a glossary in the back of the book. I felt so dumb and I do think it would have enhanced my reading experience had I used the glossary from the start.

GALWAY BAY is based on the life of Mary Pat Kelly's great-great-grandmother, Honora Kelly. I love that she wrote this entire novel based on some stories about her great-great-grandmother. I can't imagine how fascinating the entire process of writing this book would have been for her. She not only learned about Ireland's history and the beginnings of Chicago, but she also got to "know" her relatives. You can read more about what an honor it was for her to write this book here; and Ms. Kelly has also written a letter which explains some of the the things she discovered about her ancestors while researching this novel. If you still want to learn more about Ms. Kelly, check out her blog.

This book covers the life of Honora Kelly from the time she was a teenager until she was an older woman. She is a wonderful character that captured my heart from the very start; and I won't easily forget her. She was an incredibly loyal wife and mother (and grandmother) and was definitely the force behind her entire family. While she did eventually come to America because it was the best for her family, she still told all the old Irish folk stories and lore that she had learned from her grandmother. I thought these stories were a terrific addition to this book because I wasn't familiar with any of them. I also appreciated how the author wrote about the beginnings of Chicago, the fight for Ireland's freedom, and even some events in the Civil War. This book was an amazing blend of fiction and history -- there really is something for every reader in this novel.

Honora Kelly, as was her sister Maire, were without a doubt survivors and an inspiration to women everywhere. I am mind boggled by the hardships they endured throughout their lives. Even though my family isn't of Irish descent, I still related to the characters in GALWAY BAY and was touched by their plight. My relatives came over with nothing from Germany, Poland and Italy to make a home here and find a better place for their families. I think this novel speaks to people everywhere whose ancestors took humongous risks and immigrated to the United States.

I am just thrilled that Ms. Kelly is going to be interviewed today (March 17th) at 11:00 a.m. EST on Blog Talk Radio. Based on her bio, Ms. Kelly sounds very interesting. I was so impressed with not only her ability to tell a wonderful story, but also the amount of research she conducted to write this novel. I can't wait to hear her talk about her family and their Irish traditions; and I'm very anxious to learn more about what inspired her to write their story.

I highly recommend GALWAY BAY for book clubs. The only issue would be the length of the book (over 550 pages); however, it is well worth the extra time you'd spend on it. There is a reading guide in the back of the book that has some excellent discussion questions. There are so many wonderful topics such as family relationships, surviving hardships, endurance, love, religion, adapting to new environments, customs and traditions, etc. You could talk about this book for hours. And if you really want to make your meeting special, this is the perfect book to discuss over a variety of Irish foods and drinks!

Check out these other blogs participating in the GALWAY BAY tour:


Are you feeling lucky? I have three copies of GALWAY BAY to share with you. To get one entry, leave me a comment with your e-mail address telling me why you want to read this book. To double or even triple your chances, blog about this giveaway with a link back to this post and/or tweet about it! The contest will be open until Tuesday, March 31st at 11:59 p.m EST. I will announce the winners the following day. This contest is open to those of you with U.S. and/or Canada mailing addresses only.

A huge thanks goes out to Miriam from Hachette Book Group for allowing me to partipate in this book blog tour!


Margay Leah Justice said...

I would like to win this book because I am part Irish and I've always been fascinated with Ireland and its culture. Plus, my sister just booked a trip to Ireland and this would be a nice consolation prize for me.


Margay1122 (at) aol (dot) com

Mary (Bookfan) said...

I would love to win a copy of Galway Bay. I am of Irish ancestry and would share it with the book lovers in my family. My oldest daughter studied in Galway during college and I know she'd love to read it when I finish. Great review!

meah56 AT gmail DOT com

Melanie said...

Sounds like a wonderful book and I would love to get the chance to read it. I'm not Irish, but I did make a corned beef brisket for dinner tonight. That's as Irish as I'll get.

nfmgirl said...

I'd love to win this book, because I've heard good things about it. And, having been interested in genealogy and the stories of my ancestors, I love the idea of writing a book based on those stories. But I'm Scottish, not Irish, and descend from the Chief of Clan McIntyre!

nfmgirl AT gmail DOT com

Miriam said...

You are totally an honorary Irish woman today! Talk to you at 11! :)

Minding Spot said...

I've love to be entered simply because the book sounds wonderful, and I love to read. Your review is well-done!

wendyhines (at) hotmail (dot) com

Jenny Girl said...

Please enter me in this contest.
Just like you, I have not read a book conerning Irish history.
I have some friends in Ireland, so I know a little bit about the famine, its effects, and some domestic policies in the early 90s.
But a story about an immigrant family journies would be a good read.
Thanks for the contest! And Happy St. Patrick's Day

Shelley said...

I am part Irish, and I love all things Irish--only I don't drink green beer either! This book has been getting great reviews. Thanks for the chance to winj!

saz AT chainreader DOT com

Marie said...

I have a fondness for all (well, most) things Irish. Please enter me. Thanks.


Serena said...

No need to enter me in the giveaway as I am part of the tour, but I wanted to stop by and say that I think reading this book will make you an honorary Irish descendant. :)

I've posted your giveaway in my sidebar.

Mom of 5 Boys said...

I just finished reading The Wild Irish by Robin Maxwell and it made me aware of how woefully ignorant I am of Irish history. I would love to have the chance to correct that deficit! I've heard so much about this book--it's already on my wishlist. Thanks for the chance to enter!

momof5boys at gmail dot com

Nicole (Linus's Blanket) said...

No need to enter me, I already read the book and was touched by it as well. Great review.

traveler said...

This book would be memorable and special. I do so enjoy learning about other cultures and locales. It makes life interesting and worthwhile.

.Books by TJ Baff said...

Amazing review....I don't need an entry as I am part of the tour. Happy St Patrick's Day!

Darlene said...

No need to enter mem Julie. I just wanted to say great review and that I had really enjoyed this book as well.

Tara said...

I would love to read this book ! It sounds like a big juicy saga and I love those sorts of books. Thank you!

Beth F said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Beth F said...

Excellent review! I'm not Irish, but like most Americans, my family was once new to this country.

bethany (dreadlock girl) said...

I am officially dying to read this now, AHHH. I thought I could skip it..but not after all the amazing reviews I have seen today!

I am part Irish...but am a major mutt, and am mostly Italian, but for what it counts I have a little :)


ps i will TWEET about it too.

April said...

Wow - awesome review!! I loved this book as well (I am part Irish and just love anything pertaining to that heritage) This is such a fun tour and I am thrilled, also, that it won for this month!!
Happy St. Patrick's Day!!

Holly (2 Kids and Tired) said...

Terrific review. I'm not Irish (Scotch/Welsh) but I have always had a fascination and interest in Irish literature. This one was so good! Don't enter me, I reviewed it as well!

Bridget said...

Great review! I've posted about this on Win A Book. I'm part Irish too (on my mother's side), so I would love to learn more about Irish history.

Bridget said...

Oops! I forgot my email address. bridgetjarsulic@comcast.net

Amanda said...

Oh I'd love to win this! I love Irish history. I even took an Irish history class when I was an undergrad. I love that she's written historical non-fiction too which means she can do research. I love historical accuracy in books like these. Thanks for the giveaway!

Toni said...

Hi there.. no need to enter me.. Your post was thoroughly enjoyable. I am always so bummed not to be able to attend the radio events. Happy Blog Tour day.

Anonymous said...

I have to start paying more attention to the blog tour offers, you are all reading such interesting sounding books. Since I want to be part of the cool crowd, I MUST get my hands on this book and read it to catch up. Not to mention that I love historical fiction and this sounds right up my alley (and good!).

I'll blog about this in my weekly links and come back and leave you a message about it then.


Jena said...

I read a book about an Irish immigrant when I was in junior high, and I was fascinated at the treatment they received, though the "why" part of it wasn't gone into in the book. I don't know if Galway Bay will discuss that at all, but this book sounds fascinating either way.


Jena said...

My tweet: http://twitter.com/muse2323/statuses/1343172840

Lenore Appelhans said...

I'm 1/4 Irish! Great review - this would be perfect for the chunkster challenge :)

Melissa said...

Thanks for the great giveaway! I love historical fiction and learning about other cultures.

Anonymous said...

I love family sagas; please enter me!

nbmars AT yahoo DOT com

Bonnie said...

This sounds like a wonderful book. I enjoy reading family sagas and those that relate to immigrants.

Anonymous said...

I would love to read this book because it sounds like a really good glimpse of Irish history. Please enter me. Thanks!


Anonymous said...

I also blogged this here: http://olympianlady.livejournal.com/6087.html



Anonymous said...

this looks to be a really great book! Being Irish myself, I've been looking into exploring more into Ireland as a whole. Please enter me =) lpmccann(at)gmail.com

Annie1 said...

I would love to win and read this book, because I'm always looking for new, exciting books for myself and my dad to read!



Annie1 said...

Tweeted your giveaway

greeeneyedwhwomhttp://tinyurl.com/d4bu3d Win a copy of Galway Bay!

greeeneyedwhwom is my twitter name



Karlie said...

I'd like to win this because the only Irish books I've read are by Frank McCourt.

S. Krishna said...

I definitely want to read this one, I've read some great reviews! I loved how thoughtful it is!

Kristi said...

I am doing a themed reading challenge - and my theme is that the book must be about Ireland, set in Ireland or be by an Irish author - this book would fit right in! Please enter me in the drawing!

kherbrand at comcast dot net

Cassie said...

I would like to read this book because 1)if it is a book, I will probably want to read it and 2)the Kirkus review caught my attention.

Thanks for the giveaway!

Anonymous said...

Historical fiction is the perfect way to learn about past history without being dry or boring.

Luanne said...

It was a great read wasn't it! ( no need to enter me - just stopping by on the tour to say hi!)

Linda said...

This book sounds very interesting. I love family sagas and I love anything Irish. Please enter me in the giveaway. Thanks.

Book Lover Lisa said...

Really great and thorough review. I loved this book!

Anonymous said...

I love historical fiction, but have never read ANYTHING on Irish history. Would love a chance to read this one, enter me please.

Rattlesnake2021 AT aol DOT com

bermudaonion said...

Don't enter me. I just wanted to say I loved the book and your review!

Cheryl said...

Please don't enter me. Just stopping by to say I loved this book

Anonymous said...

I really should have the book because my blog is all about books like this that inspire travel. I'd love to know more about the book blog tour, and how I can get on board if there is future one. Can you please let me know?
Vera Marie Badertscher
verabadert at gmail.com

Anonymous said...

I would love to read it because I love historical fiction. Also, Irish history isn't something I studied in depth while getting my history degree, so I'd like a chance to pick up a few things.


Anonymous said...



darbyscloset said...

Why? Well because I am Irish and I know so little about my background...shame on me...help me out! ;-*
Thanks for the giveaway!
darbyscloset at yahoo dot com

Mary (Bookfan) said...

I just blogged about this in the Giveaways in my side bar.

Thanks for the extra chance : )

Anonymous said...

I would LOVE to get a copy of this book, mostly because I'm half Irish and just love anything Irish related!

Karin said...

The cover art is very appealing and makes me want to pick up this book!

Becca said...

Please enter me. All I have heard about this book makes me think it is a great read that I would really enjoy so I would love to win a copy. Thanks

Anonymous said...

I would love to win this, mosty because I love reading about the Irish and their history.

carolsnotebook at yahoo dot com

Staci said...

I love historical fiction and this sounds fantastic!!

Lisa (Southern Girl Reads) said...

I would love to win this book because I love reading family sagas rich in history! Thanks for entering me, Julie!


Cricket said...

This is just something I'd like to read because I know it would hold my attention! I think it would be a good read. I enjoy reading about Ireland and stories of immigrants from there.

Anonymous said...

Pick me - I'm Irish! My maiden name is Shannon - like the river - and Irish fiction is one of my favorite genres. In fact, Trinity is one of my top five favorite novels of all time.

nnjmom at yahoo dot com

Jo-Jo said...

I would love to win this book as I love to read books that help me learn more about other countries and cultures.

Gwendolyn B. said...

I just love learning about history through fiction - it makes it so much more "real". Thanks for the chance to win a copy of this book. There's been so much positive press about it, I can hardly wait to find out for myself!
geebee.reads AT gmail DOT com

Gwendolyn B. said...

Here's my Tweet http://twitter.com/ASeaOfBooks/status/1356771322

Thanks, again!
geebee.reads AT gmail DOT com

Jo-Jo said...

I blogged about your contest here.

CherylS22 said...

I love to read books about Ireland & Irish culture. My all-time favorite is "The Given Day" by Dennis Lehane.

Please count me in - thanks!
megalon22 at yahoo dot com

Anonymous said...

And here's where I blogged it:

Bcteagirl said...

I love historical reading. And I love Irish reading. Win win!

Anonymous said...

Please throw my name in the hat for this book giveaway!

Thank you!


Anna said...

No need to enter me. Just wanted to say I enjoyed your review, and I'm glad you liked the book, too. I referred to the glossary a lot, but it didn't detract from my enjoyment of the book.

Diary of an Eccentric

Marie said...

I really would love to read this book since I come from a family that is very proud of it's Irish heritage :-)


Anonymous said...

Not a drop of Irish blood, but love to read novels about Ireland, listen to Celtic music, etc. This book sounds like an interesting read.

Anonymous said...

i would love to win this book! been reading too many nice things about it lately!


VirtualWordsmith said...

I love books about Ireland (and Scotland, truth be told)! Please enter me in the giveaway. Thanks!

Robin Lemke said...

I would love to win a copy!

My addy is mysteryrobin at gmail dot com

Thank you!

Martha Eskuchen said...

Julie- I would like to win this as I love everything Irish - esp myths and legends! Sounds like a good book. Thanks for the chance. mesreads[at] gmail[dot] com

avisannschild said...

I'm super interested in books based on the author's family history, plus this just sounds like a good read. Please enter me!


sharon54220 said...

I would just love to win this book. I am a mutt but I'm not sure if Irish is included. LOL!!


7walker said...

I love historical sagas. Your review made this sound like a great book. Please enter me to receive a free copy.
P.S. I read your blog every day-love it!!!Just learned how to post today so entering for the first time!!:)

Diana D said...

I would like to win this book because I am an avid reader and a email buddy told me it was one I should read. Thanks for having the wonderful giveaway.

dianad8008 AT gmail DOT com

Sandra K321 said...

I've seen several blogs giving this book away and I read the reviews and descriptions with interest. I also enjoy historical fiction more than most other types.