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Galway Bay

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Overview

In a hidden Ireland where fishermen and tenant farmers find solace in their ancient faith, songs, stories, and communal celebrations, young Honora Keeley and Michael Kelly wed and start a family. Because they and their countrymen must sell both their catch and their crops to pay exorbitant rents, potatoes have become 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...

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Galway Bay

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Overview

In a hidden Ireland where fishermen and tenant farmers find solace in their ancient faith, songs, stories, and communal celebrations, young Honora Keeley and Michael Kelly wed and start a family. Because they and their countrymen must sell both their catch and their crops to pay exorbitant rents, potatoes have become 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--victims saving themselves--in the emigration from Ireland.

Danger and hardship await them in America. Honora, her unconventional sister Máire, and their seven sons help transform Chicago from a frontier town to the "City of the Century." The boys go on to fight in the Civil War and enlist in the cause of Ireland's freedom.

Spanning six generations and filled with joy, sadness, and heroism, GALWAY BAY sheds brilliant light on the ancestors of today's forty-four million Irish Americans--and is a universal story you will never forget.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"A vividly lavish historical novel. Through the eyes of the extended Kelly clan, the reader is treated to a panoramic overview of the Irish American experience."—Booklist

"[Will] appeal to fans of Frank McCourt and Irish History."—Publishers Weekly

"After reading her novel, Galway Bay, you might wonder if Mary Pat Kelly knows everything about 19th century Ireland, the Great Famine, and the emigrant experience in America. But it's her exploration of the human heart that moves you. Against landscapes beautiful and bleak she brings her characters to unforgettable life. As they say in Ireland, 'Take your ease with this book.' You'll need time for laughter and tears and pure magic."—Frank McCourt, Pulitzer-Prize-winning author of ANGELA'S ASHES

Booklist
"A vividly lavish historical novel. Through the eyes of the extended Kelly clan, the reader is treated to a panoramic overview of the Irish American experience."
Pulitzer-Prize-winning author of ANGELA'S ASHES Frank McCourt
"After reading her novel, Galway Bay, you might wonder if Mary Pat Kelly knows everything about 19th century Ireland, the Great Famine, and the emigrant experience in America. But it's her exploration of the human heart that moves you. Against landscapes beautiful and bleak she brings her characters to unforgettable life. As they say in Ireland, 'Take your ease with this book.' You'll need time for laughter and tears and pure magic."
Publishers Weekly

In this scattered retelling of her own family's struggles during the Great Irish Starvation, Kelly captures the suffering but neglects the inner lives of her thinly drawn characters. In Bearna, Ireland, in 1839, Honora Keeley falls in love with Michael Kelly after finding him swimming in Galway Bay, and they soon marry despite her father's objections. For a short time, life, while far from perfect, is sweet. Then comes the blight, destroying most of their potato crop. After losing the harvest for the third time in four years, the Kellys flee to America and settle in Chicago. Though the research is meticulous and the famine horrors are catalogued in great detail, the Kellys' lives in America are presented haphazardly, making it difficult to keep track of the huge cast of characters when decades are skipped seemingly at random. The characters themselves function more as types-greedy landlords, arrogant Englishmen-to further the plot. Despite its flaws, the novel may appeal to fans of Frank McCourt and Irish history, as the trials of the Kelly family echo the struggle of the Irish to assimilate while retaining their own heritage. (Feb.)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Library Journal

In 1839, Honora Keeley, days away from entering a convent, meets the love of her life on the bank of a river in Connemara. Blissfully unaware that the famine is rapidly approaching, Honora and Michael marry and begin their family amid the poverty of the Irish countryside. Basing this sweeping Irish family saga upon the experiences of her own family, documentary producer and journalist Kelly (Special Intentions) follows Honora and her family from Galway to Chicago, escaping starvation in search of Michael's brother Patrick. Reminiscent of Frank Delaney's Ireland, this novel focuses on the resilience and determination of the two million people who fled a callous government with nothing but hope from the perspective of Honora, her sister Maire, and their children. This readable and highly personal novel of the Irish experience is an excellent addition to the already rich collection of Irish historical fiction. Highly recommended.
—Susan Clifford Braun

Kirkus Reviews
Historically accurate epic of the Irish potato famine veers into gothic romance territory but keeps its eye on the Fenian prize. Honora Keeley is swollen with pride, if nervous, to have been accepted to "the first convent allowed to open in Galway City since Cromwell." She's a sweet 17-year-old, not quite innocent enough not to know what's happening when she first lays eyes on Michael Kelly-or rather, "the maleness of him-growing before my very eyes." But Galway is no place for tender young lovers, especially not Catholic ones, when times are so hard and the Protestant masters of Ireland so cruelly bent. As long as we have "pratties" (potatoes), our heroes reason, nothing can happen to us. But then the pratties take ill, and after resisting the bad-guy landlords to no avail the young wild geese of Galway Bay take flight. They wind up in Chicago, there to become the tribe of the lace curtains. Kelly (Special Intentions, 1998, etc.) writes with deep but lightly worn understanding of Irish history and its complex strains: Celtic, Norman, Saxon, Catholic and, yes, Protestant. She evinces and elicits sympathy for people caught up in forces well beyond their control, and for those who aim to take control and change bad situations, such as the transplanted rebels who have it in mind to travel up to Canada to whip up an insurrection against the British. The pace is a bit too leisurely, each scene lasting a few beats too long, but Kelly delivers a story whose end grows from its beginning, and whose middle has plenty to keep readers occupied. A satisfying tale, with few surprises for those who know the territory, but no false steps.
Bancroft-Prize-winning author and Columbia Univers --Eric Foner
"In this engaging novel, Mary Pat Kelly brings to life a critical era of Irish-American life, illuminating a part of our history that remains too little known."
Co-Founder of IRISH AMERICA MAGAZINE --Patricia Harty
"GALWAY BAY" is a wonderful story of triumph against the odds. It's the story of the Irish in America: what they gave and what was given, the things they lost and what was never lost--humor and faith and a strong belief that tomorrow would be a better day. Kelly's knowledge of Ireland and Irish-American history is awesome."
Pulitzer-Prize-winning author of ANGELA'S ASHES --Frank McCourt
"After reading her novel, Galway Bay, you might wonder if Mary Pat Kelly knows everything about 19th century Ireland, the Great Famine, and the emigrant experience in America. But it's her exploration of the human heart that moves you. Against landscapes beautiful and bleak she brings her characters to unforgettable life. As they say in Ireland, 'Take your ease with this book.' You'll need time for laughter and tears and pure magic."
Pulitzer-Prize-winning author of ANGELA'S ASHES —Frank McCourt
"After reading her novel, Galway Bay, you might wonder if Mary Pat Kelly knows everything about 19th century Ireland, the Great Famine, and the emigrant experience in America. But it's her exploration of the human heart that moves you. Against landscapes beautiful and bleak she brings her characters to unforgettable life. As they say in Ireland, 'Take your ease with this book.' You'll need time for laughter and tears and pure magic."
bestselling author of MEN AND ANGELS —Mary Gordon
Mary Pat Kelly's GALWAY BAY combines two traditional Irish gifts—the gift of hypnotic storytelling, and the gift of rich poetic language. It enables us to see the Irish, and Irish-American experience, in a way we would never have imagined."
Co-Founder of IRISH AMERICA MAGAZINE —Patricia Harty
"GALWAY BAY" is a wonderful story of triumph against the odds. It's the story of the Irish in America: what they gave and what was given, the things they lost and what was never lost—humor and faith and a strong belief that tomorrow would be a better day. Kelly's knowledge of Ireland and Irish-American history is awesome."
American-Book-Award-winning author of BANISHED CHI —Peter Quinn
"GALWAY BAY is a lyrical mix of history, romance and riveting narrative. A wonderfully rich, rousing, engaging tale of Irish survival and triumph, it brings enlightenment as well as enjoyment. Mary Pat Kelly's prowess as a storyteller enlivens every page."
Bancroft-Prize-winning author and Columbia Univers —Eric Foner
"In this engaging novel, Mary Pat Kelly brings to life a critical era of Irish-American life, illuminating a part of our history that remains too little known."
bestselling author of MEN AND ANGELS --Mary Gordon
Mary Pat Kelly's GALWAY BAY combines two traditional Irish gifts--the gift of hypnotic storytelling, and the gift of rich poetic language. It enables us to see the Irish, and Irish-American experience, in a way we would never have imagined."
American-Book-Award-winning author of BANISHED CHI --Peter Quinn
"GALWAY BAY is a lyrical mix of history, romance and riveting narrative. A wonderfully rich, rousing, engaging tale of Irish survival and triumph, it brings enlightenment as well as enjoyment. Mary Pat Kelly's prowess as a storyteller enlivens every page."
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780446697101
  • Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
  • Publication date: 2/28/2011
  • Pages: 565
  • Sales rank: 142,333
  • Product dimensions: 5.90 (w) x 8.80 (h) x 1.50 (d)

Meet the Author

Mary Patricia Kelly is the author of a novel Special Intentions, and nonfiction on subjects as varied as Martin Scorsese and the rescue of Scott O'Grady from Bosnia. In her life, she has been everything from a nun to a documentary filmmaker to a producer of short films for "Saturday Night Live". She lives in New York City.
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 43 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(26)

4 Star

(7)

3 Star

(4)

2 Star

(3)

1 Star

(3)

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 44 Customer Reviews
  • Posted October 18, 2011

    I Also Recommend:

    Brilliant!

    This brilliant huge epic is loaded with amazing characters, great courage, strength and endurance. The novel begins in 1839. A fishing family and surrounding neighbors make a living in Galway Bay, Ireland. Sixteen year old, Honora Keeley, is to join the local convent, but a chance meeting with young Michael Kelly changes her thinking. The fascinating Irish myths, legends and history were interspersed throughout with Gaelic phrases and words. The injustices of the time will make you cry but the characters indomitable spirit and strength and resilience will make you proud. There was such misery under the British-induced starvation and economic despair, the Protestant hatred for the Catholics. There are great emotions, feelings of love and passion, laughs and sorrows, all persevering for the basics of providing for family. This is what it's all about. Brilliant book!

    3 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 18, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Ireland's Early History at its Best

    GALWAY BAY<BR/>Mary Pat Kelly<BR/>Grand Central Publishing<BR/>$26.99<BR/>ISBN: 978-0-446-57900-1<BR/>551 pages<BR/>Reviewer: Annie Slessman<BR/><BR/>Wow¿wow..and wow again! Mary Pat Kelly¿s new novel, Galway Bay, is one of the best-written works of fiction I have read this year. Containing the history of the blight that killed so many crops and people in Ireland in the 1800s. Horror stories of people lying dead in their homes from starvation will stay with the reader for a long time.<BR/><BR/>The story¿s main character, Honora Keeley Kelly, born in 1822 marries at age 16 when Michael Kelly emerges from the sea and captivates her heart. Kelly is a wanderer, equestrian extraordinaire, blacksmith and soon to be, farmer that keeps his family close and learns to love the land. The story of Honora and Michael¿s family members brings a reader to tears and strengthens their own resolve to be stronger in the face of adversity.<BR/><BR/>When the blight ends, Michael and Honora finally have a wonderful crop to see them through the year without the threat of starvation. Their joy is short lived when the soldiers take their crops and threaten to take their lives.<BR/><BR/>Several heroes materialize in this story. Honora, Michael, Michael¿s rebellious brother, Patrick Kelly and Honora¿s sister, Maire. Patrick sparks the Irish rebellion and takes his fight to Amerikay (America) to build strong opposition to the current government and landowners (mostly English) in Ireland. Maire sacrifices herself when a landowner threatens to take Honora as his own. Maire has lost her husband to the sea and feels she is better equipped to handle the landowners demands than Honora. <BR/><BR/>The Kelly family¿s migration to Amerikay makes for some interesting reading as it includes a history of early Chicago and its demographic makeup.<BR/><BR/>The 551 pages of this work appear a bit intimidating. However, a reader will have no trouble getting through the work, as you will not be able to put it down until you have read the last word.

    3 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 9, 2010

    Outstanding!

    One of the best written books I have ever read. It is a historic novel based on true events. I usually don't read a lot of fiction, but this novel is so factually accurate and thrilling it kept me riveted. One of the few books that appeals to both the romantic and history buff.
    Faugh-a-Ballagh

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 3, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    Right up there with the very best in Irish historical fiction

    This book held my attention all the way through.
    It was a "couldn't put it down" type novel.
    The plots were complex and spanned the Atlantic Ocean from Ireland to New Orleans to Chicago.
    You won't be disappointed!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 29, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Irish History, Romance and Survival!

    This book is captivating, especially if you have family from Ireland. I wa spell bound. I admit sometimes things were a bit drawn out but it did add to the drama. Loosely based on the trial of a real family, this book had someething for everyone, the warrior, the mother, the hard working, the scoundel and the survivor in us all. A great story aobut a great land and great family. I higjly recommend this book. I have already suggested it to friends and family. So I recommend it to you as well. This is a good summer read.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 5, 2009

    A Moving and Very Good Read!

    Frank McCourt's commentary on the book mentions laughter and tears and this book did make me cry. The plot based around the potato famine and one family's immigration to America was educational and moving. You become involved with all the characters and there were many- alot of children to keep straight. I thought the story was going in one direction and it took a little turn in the middle which was a sad twist but probably true to history. It also reminds us of the importance of family and what they have to teach us that we may rarely take advantage of. A very good read and I would recommend it to anyone.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 24, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    A book that transports you in time

    Extremely well written book with good solid characters that tell a story of a family over several generations as they struggle through the potato famine and overcome many hardships to get from Ireland to America and make a new life for themselves in a bustling Chicago of the mid 1800's.
    a book that you want to keep going and the story not end.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 21, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    A Wonderful Historic Novel

    Galway Bay is an fantastic book. Kelly shows how the events of history unfold to affect one family and the impact over the generations. The characters in this book are amazing. Honora Kelly displays a great strength as she helps save her family from starvation, brings her children to America as a widow, and then worries for her boys as they fight in America's Civil War. As a reader, I could feel the strength of the emotions in this book as well as the pangs of their hunger. The characters truly come alive off the pages.

    Kelly sprinkles some Irish phrases into the dialogue which adds to the authentic feel of the book. There is a glossary in the back of the book which aids in understanding these terms although many can be understood simply from their place in the text.

    Through telling the story of one family, Kelly truly tells the tale of the millions who fled Ireland during the starvation to create new lives for themselves in America. I would highly recommend Galway Bay as a rich, historical novel and as a novel of family. The book also contains a reading guide which would make it an ideal book club selection.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 14, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Beautiful Novel

    I have little background knowledge about Irish history. I know a little about the potato famine but my knowledge doesn't extend beyond that. I did study Italian immigration for my Bachelor's but that really does not lend itself to understanding Irish history, now does it? I was a bit worried when I picked up this book that I would become lost because of my lack of knowledge. I, however, found that it was not the case at all. The moment I began reading, I became immersed in the story.

    I cannot tell you how much Galway Bay entranced me from the very beginning. I absolutely loved every single aspect of this book. I felt every joy and sorrow the Kelly family went through as if it was happening to me. I felt each tragedy and hunger pang. I often had to put the book down because it became so emotionally draining. I think that is a credit to Mary Pat Kelly. Her writing style is so crisp and descriptive. You really feel the events of this book very deeply. There was an event midway through the book that hit me like a thunderbolt. I had no idea it was coming. I am not a very emotional person in most situation but I found myself tearing up while reading this book.

    I would recommend this book to anyone interested, even on the smallest level, in Irish history. Please don't be daunted by the size of the novel. It really is a quick read.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted November 21, 2014

    Highly recommend

    One of the best I have read. Keep a box of tissues handy. Irish ancestors not necessary. Great characters.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 11, 2014

    It.mmnhcc cfe

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  • Posted November 22, 2013

    great read, I loved it.

    I would advise all who have any Irish blood in them to read this book. I did not want it to end. I also learned a lot of irish words.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 3, 2013

    Excellent book

    One of the best books I have read. If you have Irish ancestors this is a must read for you. It brings to light in a very real way what it was like for our forefathers who gave us the opportunities we have today. Excellent writng style and the book clipped along nicely. Really good book.

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  • Posted March 20, 2013

    On Tuesday, March 19, 2013, at Barnes & Noble on State Stree

    On Tuesday, March 19, 2013, at Barnes &amp; Noble on State Street in the LOOP in Chicago, I met the author of this incredible sojourn of a family's flight from starvation in Ireland and their sojourn in the United States. I am still spellbound after meeting Ms Mary Pat Kelly. Ms. Kelly shares the storytelling insights of my friend via the pen, author, Frank McCourt. Barnes &amp; Noble thanks for transporting me to the land of my Irish great great great grandfather and his 5 brothers, who also fled Ireland during The Great Starvation and came to the United States of America. Thanks Barnes &amp; Noble* and thanks Mary Pat Shelly for telling the stories of my Irish kin. I give this book 5 stars.

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  • Posted October 5, 2012

    Very good read!

    A must read for anyone interested in the historical facts of the way human beings were treated by the British not only in their own country of Ireland but also when they came to America.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 26, 2012

    Excellent read Excellent read

    Excellent read

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 29, 2011

    Excellent read

    You'll love it if you're Irish.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted November 11, 2011

    Great Story!

    An insight into the lives of the Irish in their homeland during the 1800s and in the United States during the period of the Civil War. I loved the book and recommend it to anyone who likes a good story. Well written

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  • Posted February 22, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Incredibly insightful

    In 1839 in Ireland, Honora Keeley and Michael Kelly meet when he was swimming in Galway Bay just before she is to enter a convent. They fall in love and to the chagrin of her father, they marry. Though times are tough life is good for the couple as they survive like most Irish Catholics on pratties (potatoes).

    However as the Protestant leadership cracks down economically on the Catholics, three bad crops in four years leave the young wondering whether it is time to leave to start over elsewhere. The Kelly couple moves to Chicago where his brother Patrick lives. There they begin a new life hoping to catch the vaunted American dream.

    The scenes in Ireland are incredibly haunting as people are caught up in the avarice of others and want to change a bad situation; similar to the financial crisis now. The story line purposely simmers slowly so that fans of historical epics can taste what the key players are feeling over the years especially in Chicago. However, that also serves as a two edged sword as that leads to skipped decades and a horde of resilient expatriates. Still this nineteenth century saga provides readers with a deep look at the potato famine made worse by greed while celebrating five decades of Irish American life in Chicago.

    Harriet Klausner

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  • Posted October 22, 2010

    Love This Book!!!

    I just started reading this book, and I'm almost finished with it! The writer's descriptions make you feel like you are right there alongside Honora & Michael and their families. All the trials, tribulations... the hardships & the heartbreak that this family, and the people of Ireland, have had to endure... Definitely pulls on the heartstrings. Lots of history, but also some good humor. So glad I picked this up!

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