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Continues the adventures of fifteen-year-old Maura, her younger brother Patrick, a young stowaway, and some unusual characters as they sail from England to the New World in 1851.
Friday, January 24, 1851</>
A brisk, chill wind and a strong tide bore the Robert Peel down the Mersey River, away from the city of Liverpool and out upon the rolling Irish Sea.
On the main deck stood three hundred and fifty emigrants, most of them Irish. They were of all ages, from children in mothers' arms to the old and hobbled. Virtually everyone was dressed shabbily, though here and there--like plump plums in an otherwise poor pudding--could be seen those of a richer sort. Well-off or poor, most were cold, many weak and ill. All were pondering what would happen to them next. But now that England had been left behind--and the ships gray sails bulked large even as her high, stout prow plowed the waves--there was little the passengers could do but wait anxiously for some word from the ship's captain.
Maura O'Connell, her brother, Patrick, and their friend, .Mr. Horatio Drabble, pressed side by side against the ship's bulk, each lost in thought.
Mr. Drabble, long, lanky, expanded his thin chest and breathed deeply of the rich sea air, hardly believing his good fortune. Just a few days ago he had been trapped in the insufferable misery of Mrs. Sonderbye's Liverpool basement. Now he was sailing to America, the fulfillment of a dream long held. Watching England's coast fade in the distance, he felt the weight of past disappointments drop away. As far as he was concerned, he had already become a new man. His smile was as wide as his face.
Maura O'Connell--brown hair blowing, red shawl aflutter--thought of her mother back in Ireland. While Maura could envision the womanwrapped in black, saying her beads, the girl could not imagine where in the ruins of Kilonny Village she might have found shelter. The thought brought tears to her eyes.
And was not her brother, Patrick, too young, too headstrong? And did she not bear full responsibility for him?
Then there was the actor, Horatio Drabble. Though he had been truly kind and helpful to them in Liverpool, Maura was not certain she knew him. There were times he seemed to be from quite another world, not because he was English, but because he, like Patrick, struck her as more boy than man.
When Maura thought, with some self-chiding, that soon they would be in America with their father, and she could turn over all her responsibilities to him. How well he'd care for them! Maura wanted little but some peace, some quiet, find some work to call her own. How fine that her father, rich man that he was, would provide it. The idea prompted one of Maura's rare smiles.
Patrick O'Connell had no interest in observing either the passing scenery or the other passengers. Nor was he pondering the future. He could think of nothing but Laurence hidden below decks. So it was that he stared fixedly at CaptainRickles--splendid in gray uniform and red mustache--who as standing before the main mast, calling commands to the sailors in the high rigging. As Patrick watched, the first mateapproached the captain, who introduced him to Mr. Drabble's friend, Mr. Grout, and his stout companion whose name Patrick; did not know.
So great was Patrick's worry about Laurence that he simply assumed the subject of their discussion was stowaways.
The notion filled him with dread. He must free Laurence.
Satisfied that Maura was intent upon her own thoughts, Patrick murmured, 'I'm going to watch from over there."
"Don't go far," Mr. Drabble cautioned. "They'll be letting, us below soon."
Small and wiry, Patrick had little trouble slipping through the crowd to the opposite side of the ship. Once there, he climbed the ratlines a ways and held on, toes curling over the ropes. From this roost he studied the main deck in search of some entry into the bottom hold. Only now did he admit to himself that he had no clear idea where or what the bottom hold was. In all his twelve years he had never been on such a boat. The words had made sense in Liverpool. when Fred told him where he'd hidden Laurence.
They didn't make sense now.
Looking about, Patrick noticed a sailor emerge from a closet like structure almost directly below the main mast. Would that be a way? he asked himself.
As soon as the sailor moved on, Patrick climbed down from the lines and stole a look inside the small structure. A narrow stairway led down. After checking to see if anyone watching him, Patrick stepped into the alcove, made the sign of the cross, grasped the guide rope, and started to descend.
The first level he reached was dim. Long rows of what appeared to be wide shelves stretched forward and aft into darkness. As for cargo, he saw none. The steps continued down. He went on.
At the next level Patrick discovered a few candles set in mounted glass bulbs. Their small yellow flames illuminated neat rows of boxes and crates. Here, surely, was the bottom hold.
Taking up one of the candles, Patrick made his waytoward the bow of the ship only to come to a sudden, heart pounding stop. Before him gaped an open hatchway. One more step and he would have plummeted down.
From the open square of the hatch a ladder dropped into darkness as black as his hair. Was there yet another, third hold below? Fred's words echoed in his mind: the bottom hold. Patrick stepped onto the ladder and began to climb slowly down.
Candlelight revealed a dark cavelike expanse embraced by enormous arching timbers. Countless casks, barrels, and chests, piled one atop the other, were deployed in rows that seemed to vanish, fore and aft, into murky blackness. The air was humid, clotted with the stench of rot and filth. Sounds of sloshing bilgewater, the creaks and groans of the plunging ship, filled his ears. This, Patrick told himself with dread, must be the bottom hold.
Leaving the ladder, Patrick moved warily in the direction he thought was forward, for Fred had also said the bow.
As Patrick crept along--the rough planking pricking his bare feet--he tried to examine each and every crate in fear of missing the one that bore the telltale X in a circle.
Upon reaching the bow, Patrick held the candle up. A few feet from where he stood he saw a coffinlike box wedged between two great beams as far forward as possible. On the side facing him, Patrick could just make out Fred's mark.
Patrick ran to the box and tapped on it. "Laurence!" he called. "Are you there, Laurence?" When no answer came, he began to claw away at the boards.
Copyright ) 1996 by Avi
Beyond The Western Sea. Copyright © by John Avi. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
Posted April 20, 2007
Avi is a great writer of historical fiction. In this story he creates interesting characters and suspense. However, the story is a little too drawn out and did not leave a lasting impression. This book does not compare to Avi's The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted April 5, 2005
After the major players from 'Escape from Home', the first book in the series, finally board the ship for Boston, the action still keeps going. The families in steerage are miserable, being a stowaway is stressful and lonely, the first class passengers get to know (and despise) each other. The crew of the ship is nasty and the passengers are forced into close quarters and filth, yet held in contempt by the very people who arrange it so they live that way. Of course passengers die on the ship so a little girl is brought into the mix when her parents die- the stowaway is able to leave the ship in a creative manner- engineered by Patrick. Like so many immigrants, these characters are overwhelmed when they reach Massachusetts because they have not arrived in Paradise. More hard work awaits them with the added anti-Irish sentiments flooding the East during the mid-1800's. Young readers will become outraged when they read of the terrible living conditions- again- and the treatment these people receive at the hands of those in power. There are enough twists in the plot to keep it interesting, but simple enough to keep track of the characters and their shifting attitudes and loyalties. The pace is fast and suspenseful, the chapters are of varying lengths making it somewhat difficult to put down! An excellent introduction to immigrant's lives and struggles during times of great poverty. Avi needs to write a third book to complete this set to explore how difficult it was to establish a life in a new place, and to see how difficult it was to strike it rich in the California Gold Rush.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted June 6, 2003
Life in Ireland and England had to be worse than the difficulties faced by the immigrants in the late 1800's. This is a well written historical fiction that keeps the reader's interest from cover to cover. Speaking of covers, this one is not appealing and makes one think it is an old, dull, book, which it isn't.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted July 22, 2002
I laughed, cried, worried, and feared for all the characters in this book. And now that finished the book I couldn't believe it was over, this story. It wasn't right. AVI please right the sequel to this book. PLEASE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted January 28, 2002
Good Job Avi for making this Book full of adventure. Maura and Patrick contenue there Riskfilled Journey to America where Death, and Danger Fulfill Each and every step. When they Reach America, They Find that most Americans arn't to Friendly to the Irish, and One American named A Mr. Jerimiah Jenkins Is A Wretched Man who is Filled with Evil toward the Irish.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.