5 Stars Out Of 5
A rare gem in the Christian fiction field
July 23, 2013
Based on Irish immigration in the 1840s, Flight of the Earls by Michael K. Reynolds is the first book in the Heirs of Ireland series. From the Great Potato Famine in Roscommon, Ireland, to the poverty and corruption of Five Points NYC, to the war with Mexico in Veracruz, this novel captures the indelible spirit and hope of the Irish people. Flight of the Earls is a rare gem in the Christian fiction field.
It's obvious that Michael is a talented author who writes from the heart in this saga that follows two members of the Hanley family as they leave their beloved homeland of Roscommon, Ireland due to dire economic conditions, and sail to what would surely be a land of opportunity that would save their family back home. Michael has a wonderful ability when it comes to creating complex characters that the reader cares about and conveying a sense of place through his elegant prose filled with vivid descriptions.
I have always loved all things Irish, so I enjoyed Michael's description of the Irish people - the spirit that shone above their suffering and devastation. One particular scene on the boat stands out where, in spite of the indescribable conditions in steerage . . . "A man with a fiddle began to play tunes of Ireland, tunes of joy and the unshakable resolution of its people. They sang and some danced, lifting their skirts, locking arms, and spinning as the crew trimmed the sails and looked down from above."
Clare Hanley is a strong character who takes on burdensome responsibilities, yet she yearns for the inner contentment and peace that she always saw in her Grandma Ella. Clare's brother, Seamus, seems to easily find misfortune, often from his own doing. "My father always said I was worthless. I spent my life proving him right."
New York's Five Points area played such a huge part in this narrative that I felt it became a main character. Believing they would find in America a land of great wealth and opportunity, these Irish immigrants discovered themselves in an area that was quite the opposite, yet hope was never extinguished. One of Clare's friends, a prizefighter named John Barden, says: "I love the Five Points. The newspapers don't speak kindly of her. They see the beggars, the poor, the beaten, the homeless, the drunks, thieves, and whores. But I see a place full of good people, short on blessings, but full of hope and courage. I see a place groaning for its chance to prosper. Only to be kicked down when it tries to rise to its feet. Sounds like the Irish, don't it?"
I loved the way hope is shown through another character, Andrew, who works for his father's newspaper, the New York Daily. Passionate about wanting to do more than just write about poverty, Andrew pursues his dream of a ministry house that would feed, lodge, and teach skills to those in need . . . "A sanctuary from the cruelties of this life. No one would be turned away, and each would know their comfort would be provided by the grace of God."
Flight of the Earls is a historical novel filled with realism and emotion, a people of resilience and hope, and superb storytelling. I highly recommend this novel to all readers.
The second book in this series, In Golden Splendor, has recently been released. It continues the story of Seamus.
This book was provided by B&H Publishing through NetGalley in exchange for my honest review.