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“A nation….Can a country of unmarked graves ever be a nation?”.  
Galway Bay begins in 1839 and covers the life of Honora Keeley, first bound for the church, until she by chance meets Michael Kelly as he’s rising from the bay after a swim and it’s love at first site for both. Despite the odds against them, they manage to marry and find a place to live and farm and do as well as can be expected under the British oppression – that is until the potato blight hits. With the British government insensitive to the needs of the starving, many begin to emigrate to America and the Kellys finally decide to go as well and join Michael’s brother Patrick in Chicago.

Once in America Honora and her family first arrive in New Orleans and then make their way to Chicago, able to rise above the bigotry and ignorance against the Irish and build a new life. The family’s story then takes them through the Civil War, the Fenian Rising of 1867, the great fire and Chicago’s World’s Fair (Columbian Exposition).

While it’s not a five star book IMO, I really enjoyed this one, especially the first parts in Ireland – the accounts of the Great Famine were horrendous, as well the ignorance and bigotry of the English government as they sat on their hands and watched so many die such horrible deaths. I also enjoyed their early days in Chicago as they struggled to find employment and keep a roof over their heads. My only complaint is the last 75 or so pages tended to drop off and things got pretty slow as the author wrapped it up. I know that the Irish had large families with lots of kids and grandkids, but finally my head was spinning trying to keep track of them all. Perhaps a family tree for the paperback edition would help readers keep them straight? Lastly, there is a lovely glossary in the back listing many of the Irish expressions used in the book and how to pronounce them. Wish I’d known about it when I started the book. 4/5 stars.

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