Songs of the Shenandoah is a great addition to Heirs of Ireland series. I really love this series and I think Songs of the Shenandoah is my favorite of the 3. It is a really good look at the Irish during the American Civil War era. I am disappointed to see that this is the last book. I would love love love to continue on with the Haney family. But that's just me not wanting to let go.
Songs of the Shenandoah is a beautiful and adventurous tale. The descriptions are so wonderful, I could picture the sweeping vistas just as if I were watching a movie. Though Reynolds wove a tender romance through the pages, the love story that caught my heart was the love between the siblings, particularly the brothers Davin and Seamus. I had to go in search of tissues a few times while reading, because by the mid-point I felt like part of the family. I've enjoyed each of the three books making up the Heirs of Ireland series, but Songs of the Shenandoah was the best of the bunch.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book for free from B&H Fiction for the purpose of review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.
Songs of the Shenandoah concludes The Heirs of Ireland, a three-volume series written by Michael K. Reynolds - three chapters of one epic story that captures the indelible spirit and hope of the Irish people, beginning with Irish immigration to America in the 1840s and ending shortly after the Civil War. With its lyrical writing, character depth, historical theme, and compelling narrative, this series is a rare gem in any market, but especially the Christian market. My emotions were engaged from page one of the first book, Flight of the Earls, and the connection only strengthened with the deepening of characterization and plot throughout the series.
And then there's that special something called the Wow! factor - which has been described as "a combination of a unique plot and setting, likeable and intelligent characters, and a distinct and readable writing style, or 'voice.'" While the last book of a series can sometimes be weak, Songs of the Shenandoah is in a class by itself - and for me, it truly has that Wow! factor.
Characterization is certainly one of this story's strengths, and it was pure joy to reunite with the Hanley and Royce families - characters who are not only "likeable and intelligent," but passionate about family and faith, caring, flawed, but willing to grow from their mistakes - in other words, real people that readers will care about also. A sense of pride and love for the Irish people, and heartbreak at all they have endured, is at the heart of this novel. Clare reflects: "Oh how the sons and daughters of Ireland floated away like tragic driftwood from that land! Pushed by uncaring tides to distant lands, where there they were plucked from the waters with hands of mockery and scorn."
Clare Hanley Royce, a storied reporter for her husband Andrew's newspaper, the New York Daily, is driven by desire "to confront the enemy face-to-face, with her pen if not the sword." Seamus Hanley, a mountain man turned preacher, learns that a military chaplain's job is to console the inconsolable. Davin Hanley, famed gold miner, yearned "for something more than the high society, fine clothes, and attention from women his wealth had attained."
Through characterization and plot, Michael has his finger on the pulse of war - from needless death, destruction, fear and cruelty to unparalleled courage, loyalty and faith. In a scene between General Stonewall Jackson and Seamus, Jackson points out that both sides will be praying for God's protection, to be in His will, and asks, "Who will God choose?" Seamus replies, "If there are soldiers, men, women, thousands and hundreds of thousands praying on either side, desperate for their Father, then maybe the victory is already won."
Pastor Asa mentors a young Seamus jaded by ministry with words that lead to a turning point in Seamus's life and he reflected on God's odd sense of humor in calling him to serve the very Army he had previously deserted. But isn't that often the way God works? Asking us to die to self and take up our cross, often bringing us back to the very root issue from which we initially sought escape?
Another strength of this story is Michael's lyrical prose, beautifully shown in this scene where Clare and Andrew worshipped at a black church in one of the poorest sections of Manhattan and felt the moving of the Holy Spirit. "Gathered in this very room were some of the poorest, most oppressed people in the entire city. But rather than hearing the cries of bitterness or anger, Clare heard something so rare to behold. The sweet sound of gratitude."
Another moving scene later on, between Andrew and a repentant Davin: "I know who you are," Andrew whispered in his ear. "I know who you can be." And isn't that exactly what we love to hear God speak into our hearts?
Over the arc of the Heirs of Ireland series, Michael has created a fascinating and intricately woven tapestry with his fictional characters that surely reflects something of what God's tapestry of our lives might look like: lives full of the hanging threads of doubt, disappointment, hardship, disbelief, joy, endurance, peace, and homecoming - yet so smoothly woven together and beautiful from God's omniscient view.
There's a moving scene where Davin asks a runaway slave named Jacob how he can sing, and I'll close with his poignant words: "My chains? They was cut long ago and for all times. I ain't get my freedom from no man. And no man can take it from me."
Songs of the Shenandoah is a memorable book, one whose characters and message will long be with me. Rating: 5++
Thank you to Michael and B&H Publishing Group for providing a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.
It took awhile for this third book in the series to grab me; perhaps I had too many interruptions. (I read it during the Christmas holidays.) Nonetheless, I pressed on and read to the final page. I'm so glad that I did. The author has the ability to place the reader dead center in the middle of the action in the war against the states. We see the torn bodies, we hear the groans, and we smell the blood. In addition, he shows us the conflict that families on both sides face.
A great question is considered: "Is there a right side to this war? If soldiers on both sides are praying before going into battle, "who will God choose? (233) On what side does God stand?"
Love, loyalty, and forgiveness are themes. Despite depicting the horrors of war, the author brings the Hanley family to a satisfying conclusion. Although this novel could be read as a stand alone novel, the trilogy would be best enjoyed when read in order.
Thank you to Bonnie at Christian Fiction Blog Alliance and B&H Books for my copy.
I can understand why authors have a hard time after completing a series having become so engrossed with the characters, story and history. For me, this is one of the hardest series to read the last book for as I just fell in love with everything about the Heirs of Ireland. The series began with Flight of the Earls followed by In Golden Splendor to this final book. Personally, I cannot wait to see what this author presents next to his followers and audience.
What began as a take on a family from Ireland coming to America grew in proportion to the timeframe of the story about the Hanley clan. Clare, being the oldest and now a parent and having to face the potato famine, decides to embark on an adventure to care for her siblings. Over time Clare, Seamus, Devan and Caitlin grow to adulthood with each having unique experiences giving them a strong family tie. There is adventure and danger woven in the texture of the story that covers a lot of historical events like the Underground Railroad, The Civil War, The Sanitary Commission and much more.
In this third and final book, we say goodbye to an adventure that will be revisited by readers who love an excellent historical trilogy. In Songs of Shenandoah, the audience will be taken with how the family tries to retain their tight bond through trials and adversities. My personal heritage is from the Emerald Island and that is what drew me to the series originally and never have I read such captivating tales about Irish immigrants!
History is more captivating when told in a story format or maybe even a biographical writing. However, history has much to remind us about those who lived before us and left a heritage, both good and bad. As I grow older, I appreciate learning more each time about historical people, places, nations, etc_ The knowledge and entertainment I gain only make me want to read more, especially when the story is infused with faith. Grab this trilogy and get set to become ensnared by this masterpiece that is truly awesome! I have all three novels and without a doubt know that I will be reading them many times over the coming years. My friend is also building her home library to include the trilogy. How about you?