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Book cover of A Boy from Ireland: A Novel

A Boy from Ireland: A Novel

by Marie Raphael

Publisher: W W Norton & Co Inc
ISBN: 9780892553310

Available to Buy

Synopsis of A Boy from Ireland: A Novel

A fast-paced historical novel about an Irish immigrant boy who triumphs over prejudice handed down for generations.

Liam's English father disappeared years ago. Now, at age fourteen, Liam is sent to Connemara, Ireland, to live with his uncle, a fierce patriot who holds England accountable for famines and all that the Irish suffered under her rule. Uncle Patrick despises Liam for his English blood. So do the Connemara boys who torment and bully him. Before long, Liam is ensnared in a centuries-old battle.

To raise money for the republican cause, Uncle Patrick goes to New York, taking Liam along. Liam imagines he will find his father there and be free. As he travels harsh Hell's Kitchen's streets in the horse-drawn wagon of the black man who hires him, Liam discovers that violence breeds violence in this new world as it did in the old one. Irish and English, blacks and whites, and even horse and man are drawn into a destructive whirlwind. Living with the uncle who hates him, still pursued relentlessly by a Connemara boy, desperately seeking his father, Liam is drawn in, too.

Liam longs to escape. With no one to turn to, he has to save himself.

A Boy from Ireland links racial and national conflicts to those faced by any young adult, raising issues that are especially relevant today.


It is 1901. Teenaged Liam and his older sister Alice Ann have just lost their mother and moved in with their Uncle Patrick. The pair's mixed heritage-Irish from their mother, English from their missing father-makes the pure Irish of Connemara distrust them. Soon enough, Liam is feuding with the local boys. When Uncle Patrick is called to New York to raise money for the Irish cause, he brings Liam and Alice Ann along. Unfortunately for Liam, one of the boys with whom he is feuding, Colin, also comes. Vivid scenes of both rural Ireland and Hell's Kitchen are the strength of this novel. The characters are also well drawn and memorable. None are stereotypes. Mr. Hapwood is the scarred black man who owns the stables. His business partner, the widowed Mrs. McCathery, is a member of the Irish tribe and was Liam's mother's best friend. Liam's friend Jacob is a Jewish boy who fled the Cossacks and now wants to go to Columbia University. Colin is a tall bully from Ireland who is creative in his cruelty. Uncle Patrick might be abusive and distant, but there is a softer side of him that loves Ireland. Something is missing in the plot of this tale, however. It is clearly a coming-of-age story, but it feels more like a collection of short stories strung together than a cohesive novel. The title is unoriginal at best and will take some pushing to come off the shelves.

About the Author, Marie Raphael

Marie Raphael is the author of the novel Streets of Gold (Persea Books, 2001). She has been a teacher in middle school, high school, and college, most recently at Humboldt State University. She lives in Redway, California.

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