Redemption Falls

( 5 )


From the author of international bestseller Star of the Sea comes this tale of hatreds and mercies, of balladry and the blues, war and peace. It is an epic novel and an unforgettable love story.

1865: The American Civil War is ending. Eliza Duane Mulvey sets out from Lafayette, Louisiana, the town her mother Mary Duane called home. Alone, she walks across a devastated country in search of a youngster she has ...

See more details below
Paperback (Reprint)
$26.43 price
(Save 8%)$28.99 List Price
Other sellers (Paperback)
  • All (34) from $1.99   
  • New (7) from $1.99   
  • Used (27) from $1.99   
Redemption Falls: A Novel

Available on NOOK devices and apps  
  • NOOK Devices
  • Samsung Galaxy Tab 4 NOOK 7.0
  • Samsung Galaxy Tab 4 NOOK 10.1
  • NOOK HD Tablet
  • NOOK HD+ Tablet
  • NOOK eReaders
  • NOOK Color
  • NOOK Tablet
  • Tablet/Phone
  • NOOK for Windows 8 Tablet
  • NOOK for iOS
  • NOOK for Android
  • NOOK Kids for iPad
  • PC/Mac
  • NOOK for Windows 8
  • NOOK for PC
  • NOOK for Mac
  • NOOK for Web

Want a NOOK? Explore Now

NOOK Book (eBook)
$15.99 price


From the author of international bestseller Star of the Sea comes this tale of hatreds and mercies, of balladry and the blues, war and peace. It is an epic novel and an unforgettable love story.

1865: The American Civil War is ending. Eliza Duane Mulvey sets out from Lafayette, Louisiana, the town her mother Mary Duane called home. Alone, she walks across a devastated country in search of a youngster she has not seen in four years. One of the hundred thousand children drawn into the war, his fate has been mysterious and will prove extraordinary.

It’s a walk that will have consequences for many seemingly unconnected survivors: a love-struck cartographer, a beautiful Latina poetess, rebel guerrilla Johnny Thunders, runaway slave Grace McNeile, the mercurial revolutionary Giacomo O’Keefe, who commanded a brigade of Irish immigrants in the Union Army and is now Governor of a western wilderness where nothing is as it seems.

Read More Show Less

Editorial Reviews

Max Byrd
Readers who like their plots clear and coherent and their prose clean and Hemingwayesque will drop this book in a hurry. Readers with a taste for inspired Joycean wordplay and a tolerance for narrative anarchy will scoop it up in delight.
—The New York Times
Publishers Weekly

Irish author O'Connor (Star of the Sea) delivers a highly stylized post-Civil War period pastiche centered on Redemption Falls, a tumultuous frontier town in the Mountain Territory (presumably in present day Utah or Montana). Told through the posters, correspondence, poems/songs, newspaper articles and interview transcripts collected in the early 20th century by a university professor (and nephew of one of the book's prominent characters), the narrative follows acting governor James Con O'Keeffe as he feuds with his ravishing wife, Lucia-Cruz McLelland, about the mute 12-year-old drummer boy Con takes in and wants to adopt. The boy, Jeddo Mooney, is in a bad way and unaware that his tenacious older sister, Eliza Duane Mooney, is hiking from war-ravaged Louisiana to find him. (Her journey is its own mini-epic.) Con's past as an English criminal who barely escaped the noose and his behavior as an American politician demonstrate his noble but flawed character, while a chorus of minor voices add texture to a narrative already rich with a medley of languages, dialects and clashing cultural mores. The novel is complex, ambitious and at times difficult (many characters are uneducated, and their journals and letters prove to be occasionally impenetrable). O'Connor succeeds as a ventriloquist who brings to life a wide cross-section of Americana. (Oct.)

Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
Library Journal

When a seasoned author like Ireland's O'Connor (Star of the Sea) writes historical fiction, it is rich with more than facts, dates, and famous faces. It becomes a living, breathing narrative, envisioned by an artist. This is what O'Connor's latest offers readers seeking a style that goes beyond conventional storytelling. To explore the experience of Irish immigrants during the U.S. Civil War and the expansion of the American West, O'Connor uses a variety of narrative voices and epistolary forms of storytelling that change the tempo and meaning of his tale. Among his characters is Eliza Duane Mooney, who is trekking across post-Civil War America in a twisted quest. Lucia-Cruz McLelland is a beautiful artisan who discards her suitors in New York City to forge a life in the desolate town of Redemption Falls with war hero and revolutionary James Con O'Keefe. A runaway slave living with O'Keefe also plays a role at this crossroads of the world, holding her past in the flickering light and turning her losses into hope. Beautifully written, this work is recommended for all historical fiction collections.
—Ron Samul

Kirkus Reviews
Immigrants, vagabonds and rebels cross paths in the bloody wake of the American Civil War. Irish novelist O'Connor crafts an emotional sequel, of sorts, to his much-lauded previous immigrant fable (Star of the Sea, 2003). In picking up the loose threads from Star of the Sea, some 18 years after the ship arrived in America, the author constructs this fascinating, mercurial historical epic. It begins with a girl, Eliza Mooney, the daughter of nanny Mary Duane from the previous book, who walks, barefoot, clothes in tatters, across the emotionally bankrupt South in search of her wayward brother Jeremiah, known to her as Jeddo. Her journey points her toward Redemption Falls, a cruel and nearly lawless settlement in the heart of the Western frontier. Her passage will cost her dearly, but it brings her into the orbit of dozens of other outlandish primary characters including errant cartographer Allen Winterton, an expressive black slave called Elizabeth Longstreet and a rough-and-tumble Irish outlaw named Johnny Thunders. Though all are gripping in their own way, they ultimately fall under the purview and shadow of James Con O'Keeffe, a flamboyant Irish republican, anarchist and skillful raconteur who has sweet-talked and schemed his way into the governorship of his rural kingdom. O'Connor pieces together the scraps of their lives, employing oral histories, translated letters, poems, daguerreotypes and even wanted posters. The transitions between passages can be jarring, but the richness of the overall effect is undeniable. A striking Western epic elevated by a Greek chorus of deviant narrators. Agent: Carole Blake/Blake Friedmann Literary Agency
From the Publisher
"Redemption Falls deals with a crucial period in the history of Ireland and the United States. The story is told with extraordinary ingenuity, the tone a mixture of the playful and the grave, at times fast-moving, smart and very clever, and then full of beautiful writing and heart-breaking sequences. The cadences of the competing voices in the book combine to produce a dazzling narrative."
—Colm Toibin

"Redemption Falls is a gem. It's a glorious book, enormous, virtuoso and brave. Its scope is wide - love, death, war, belonging - and yet its gaze is intimate. At its heart is the story of a woman who wants to return to the only country she has - her family. The language is at turns bawdy, ancient, poetic, grand and funny. One can't dismiss the genius that's involved in being able to tell such necessary stories in a time of war and still be able to beat back all the cliches. The minute I finished the book I wanted to start reading it all over again."
—Colum McCann

"A huge achievement, as deep as it is wide, this is a book like no other of these times - a panorama of tragic love set among people devastated by the American Civil War, brilliantly recounted in the multiple tones of their voices, writings and songs, and realised with an empathy both impressive and extraordinarily moving."
—Nuala O'Faolain

"This book took my breath away. If you’re interested at all in the American Civil War, Irish participation in same, love, the expansion of the West, you’ll delight in this novel. It is panoramic, yet dense and delicious in detail. It is written gloriously, as if Mr O’Connor toiled at some mighty cathedral organ containing the whole of the English language with its Irish and American flavourings. This is a brave book and only a brave heart could have written it."
—Frank McCourt

Read More Show Less

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781416553175
  • Publisher: Free Press
  • Publication date: 6/10/2008
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 480
  • Product dimensions: 8.34 (w) x 10.92 (h) x 1.13 (d)

Meet the Author

Joseph O'Connor

Joseph O’Connor was born in Dublin. He has written ten widely acclaimed and best-selling books including the novels Cowboys and Indians; Desperadoes; The Salesman; Inishowen, and most recently Star of the Sea.

Good To Know

In our interview, O'Connor shared some fun facts about himself:

"As a university student, I once had a summer job selling plastic refuse sacks over the telephone. Rather worryingly, I was not too bad at it."

"I was born on 20 September, 1963, the anniversary of the day on which various pieces of Robert Emmet, the great 19th century Irish patriot, were separated from one another by British uniformed persons with the aid of an axe and scaffold. As a result of this haunting coincidence, my parents very nearly named me Emmet O'Connor. Quite a good name for a novelist, actually."

"I have always wanted to write a novel called The Old One-Two, but I haven't the faintest idea what it might be about."

"I'm afraid I have little time for hobbies, other than music, which I've mentioned above. My wife and I sometimes go to the opera. We're lucky enough to get to travel a lot, often because of work -- she's a screenwriter. As the father of a lively three-year old boy, I occasionally catch Barney or Clifford, the Big Red Dog. But secretly I prefer the ,I>Bear in the Big Blue House -- better stories and more moral ambiguity."

"Other ways of unwinding include regular and deafeningly loud doses of J. S. Bach, the great Muddy Waters, or George Thorogood and the Delaware Destroyers. As for literary dislikes, I do have one big one. Despite its newfound popularity, I must confess that I simply don't get the point of Tolkien's work, that sad little circus of hobbitry and Elvish. How profound must one's weariness of the real world have become to want to burrow into the recesses of Middle Earth like a disappointed mole. Some people I love swear that The Lord of the Rings is a masterpiece, but I am firmly on the side of C. S. Lewis, who is said to have sighed, on reading an early draft: ‘Oh, for God's sake, Tolkien. Not another elf story.'"

Read More Show Less
    1. Hometown:
      Dublin, Ireland
    1. Date of Birth:
      September 20, 1963
    2. Place of Birth:
      Dublin, Ireland
    1. Education:
      B.A., University College, Dublin, 1984; M.A., 1986; University College, Oxford, 1987; M.A., University of Leeds, 1991

Read an Excerpt




Her leave-taking - The strangeness of time - A fat man - Little Rock
John Cory & his family - The lustful preacher

The quarter-light was rising as she hurried out from Baton Rouge: through the criminal districts of town, then the black section, then the Irish, past the clustered Union sentries on the Telegraph road, the maws of Federal cannons ranked and aimed toward the north, then onward over the viaduct into barricaded swampland where once, not long ago, the slaves had toiled. It was January the 17th, 1865. The end of the War was coming.

Walking away from a scalpeen shack. The grits of the road on roadskinned soles. Grind of the shingles into lacerated arches. Dazzle of pain, the cramps through the hamstrings, and the hopeless prayers for shoes.

It took her almost a month to slog across Louisiana. Fifteen miles a day. Twenty-six thousand paces. A soldier, vittled and booted, might have deserted at such a burden. Eliza Duane Mooney did not.

She had not been long walking when it started to happen. Everything was coming to merit attention. A rice-field. Two flies. A dead chickenhawk in a gully. The eyes of hungry alligators resentful in the slime. All of it seemed equal, which is one definition of madness. The weight of the world had lost proportion.

There were days when she hobbled until the world began to shimmer. The sky billowed around her like the folds of apocalypse and the whitehot egg of pain in her breast threatened to crack with a seepage ofvenom. She would lie wherever she fell, gaping up at the crows - would crawl from the road if she was able. Whatever burned to hatch must be palliated by stillness. She came to believe it could hear her.

Riders went by, or waggons full of men. Nobody stopped. Perhaps they did not see her. This is what she would tell herself as she shivered in the ditches. I am becoming invisible now.
April comes in. Time is moving strangely. Tenses grow confused.

Near El Dorado, Arkansas, a stockman is yammering to some farmwomen. Lee is defeated! The rebellion no more! Jefferson Davis in shackles, they say, arrested in a woman's corsets! As she approaches the huddle, the settlers gape at her like goslings. It must be that they can smell her, she thinks.

The minstrel boy to the war has gone. In the ranks of death you'll find him.

A fat man regards her, eyes crinkling in the sunlight. 'Get walkin, daughter. Aint nothin for you here.'As if to italicize the rejection, he pulls back the hem of his coat, beneath which is a cane in a scabbard like a sword's. She is not thinking about the dismissal (she is accustomed to dismissal) but about the antiqueness of his accent, the poetry he talks. Git waukin, dauduh. Ain nuthn fow y heä. His vowels go bouncing on the air.

His father's sword he has girded on. And his wild harp slung behind him.

She pictures the journey as a procession of scarlet ants stretching out from the bayouland to the bastions of the Rockies. She is not truly walking fifteen hundred miles. She is crushing ants one step at a time.

Come Christmas she will be seventeen. 1865. The year the South surrendered. She has no memory of any place beyond the town of her childhood, not even of being in New Orleans with her mother. The edge of the world is the County Line. Stepping over its verge is a trespass. She is out beyond the frame of all that was given, into a land where almost everything is strange. The customs of the people. Their figures of speech. The taste of creek water. That spider on a leaf. Cherokees observing her from the crests of those hummocks. The shattering nothingness of spaces between settlements.

This was the country they'd been killing each other for. These stone walls and levees. Those barns and stunted swards. It was barely an old man's life ago that none of it was here, when the land was only the land, not acreage. Unfenced, ungridded, unmeasured, unbequeathable, a continent of forests the size of nations. The Indians named the rivers; many banks they left anonymous. Then the immigrants came to America.

She had on a tattered hand-me-down her mother once gave her: a rough-cut grogram smock like a knight's tabard of old. 'Shenick's of London' stitched into the label. In its pocket, a slingshot. A bundling on her back. That garment was the only wearing she possessed in the world. She slept in it, walked in it. It had become a kind of skin.

In the bundle, a storybook, dilapidated, spinecracked, and a canister of medicinal foot powder, and a crumpled letter. The powder proved a waste of her last four cents. She suspects it is nothing but pestleddown chalk. She may as well rub in the cinders of the road for all the alleviation it brings.

The Redeemer never wrote. Only once in the dust. Never put nothing on paper. Walked fifteen hundred mile out of Palestine Texas, howled many a field-holler on the way. He was hipshot at Gettysburg, blinded in the Wilderness, torched alive at Shiloh, gutted at Manassas, and He shrieked the rebel yell as they diced for his uniform: Mother, why have you forsaken me?
Sometimes by moonlight, or when she pauses to rest, she takes out the storybook and riffles its pages. The feel of the flimsies Eliza finds comforting, more than the words stained onto them. Thou Shalt Not Kill. I shall cause them to fall. Their carcasses will I give to be meat for the fowls. If you counted all the words in that thick rustling book, they would be fewer than the dead of the War.
And some of those who died were Ephesians or Jerusalems, Maccabees and Canaanites, Golgothas and Samaritans. But most were only ands and ifs and ye's, small and unmemorable, devoid of authority, only significant for the matters they link, never worth quoting or immortalizing in a place-name, because those are the ones that will always do the dying when it comes a time of war. And you wouldn't really miss them until you tried to speak, at which point you would find yourself struck by the absence that is felt between those who love or hate, or sensed in the oceans of the self: the wanted word is somehow not here. It was murdered; edited out of the inheritance. What you say, instead, is what you know how to say, and not what you would like to: the truth.
When it rained she was drenched. On hot days she burned. Time continued moving in ways she did not understand. A minute takes an hour on hardscrabble road but a morning skitters by if you're resting. Often she thinks of a story her mother used to tell. The fiddler inveigled by a faerywoman on the road into Connemara, who enters her rath, plays for her a single night, but when he stumbles out at dawn, blinking, lovedrunk, he finds ten years have passed. You can lose you a life in a single night. Mamo's stories were facts, not fancies.

The skin on her arms is flaking to rice paper. She blisters in sunroar. Her skin will not toughen. She counts as she walks, to murder the road. She gropes for a history that Mamo once read to her. And when even the sight of the trees becomes strange, as can happen in country you do not know, she finds herself inventing their names:

Heartsfire. Gallowspole. Lovers-in-Winter. Magwitch. Hookbough. The Convict's Nails.

In the forest is a temple. In the temple, a box. In the box is a needle. And the needle mends a dress. And the dress is put on by a jilted contessa. And she falls for a fiddler. But he is promised to a faery. And on like that; each stride of the story a punctuation of her steps on the road.
And the story never ends. It spindles out like a web, a netting of filigrees twisting into a petticoat. It trails a way back to Baton Rouge, Louisiana: an egg-sack waiting to burst. And you could never smirch paper with the words of this story, because a bookstory must be straight and true as a ballad, where a life is not like that, not sliceable into stanzas nor even truly capable of narration in one tense. The past is not over, so it seems to Eliza Mooney, and the future has happened many times.

Through ghost towns. Through bread riots. Across skookum-chucks of rivers. These extents between the towns she dreams as a grid. In the dreams she is flying, but with turtlelike slowness, looking down on the longitudes, which are rods of blinding light. Sometimes a sibilant buzz can be heard. Other times, churchlike silence.

She fashions little snares out of saplings and thorns. You can kill a wren that way but there is no eating in a wren. Over sloughs. Wading creeks. Through the high, cold canyons. She sklents like a crab through a dustbowl.

There are days when the walking takes on the abstractedness of rhythm, when she feels, through the misting of pain and hunger, as though her feet are revolving the planet beneath her, turning it like a prisoner's on a treadmill. An eerie sensation: she is turning the world. It withstands, it resists, all the way to its kernel. But then slowly it succumbs; it is crushed into obedience. She is walking to stand still, not to travel into a story. Walking to make the story stop.

A farrier and his lad in the roar of a forge, chiseling a fetter off a black man's ankle. He is shaking, the black man, his hand on the boy's head. Sparks spurt with each krang of the hammer.

Grufts of road dirt are matting her hair. The smock chafes her back. Scrofula makes her tear at herself. Her fingernails go scrivening, scriggling, scratching, but the itch never truly recedes. A drunk heaves a cobble at her. Where did he get a cobble? She scuttles through a bombed-out graveyard.

Malnourished, sickening, through dreamdrifts: memories. But perhaps they are not recollections; rather predictions. The plunk of a banjo calls to mind a Good Friday. Gull-calls. Curtained Christs. The sizzle of gumbo. Oysters the size of a baby's fist. The head of a crawfish oozing in the sun. A pelican alighting on a black metal balcony, gulping at the hornets as they vex it. A widower, a Creole, was her client that afternoon. He'd had his butler go into the streets to hire her.

'J' suis riche,' said the rich man, by way of introduction. 'Ma table c'est la meilleure du sud.' He told her he loved her, would do anything for her;
kept asking her to call him mon mari. He wanted her to ride him. Wanted to kiss. Wanted her wearing this wedding gown. Wanted her from behind with the skirts about her flanks. Wanted her to whisper: Je viens. The blemish around his finger where his wedding band had been: where was the ring now, she wondered. And near the end of their contracted time,
as they coupled, as they writhed, he had drawn one of her feet to his gasping mouth and sucked on her heel as though it was a fruit, and wept like a hungering baby. And she knew it would be over before too long. It was always nearly over if they wept.

The ash, the oak, the yew, the elder,

The plane, the pine, the fir, the alder.

The tribes of Galway, the heavenly host,

The Father, Son and Holy Ghost.

She is in four-four time. A bag of tunes gone walking. It is as though this
Via Crucis is being overseen by a conductor. Even her visions seem to click like a metronome and the road she measures in beats.
Sweat stings her eyes. Her body is scalding. But she knows, for she learned at her mother's knee, that if you only persevere - 'p e r s e v e r', Mamo pronounced it - your steps will prevail over any earthly road, no matter its hardness or the dangers by its edge, just as time, in its droplets of the unnoticed seconds, will eventually hollow a way through your lifestone.

Mother of Christ, Star of the Sea,

Mary, my mother, pray for me.

And the land unspools like a painted diorama. And on she lurches through the foddery air: through dreekings of rain, then hurtful heat, and clouds of fly-filled pollen. Past squadrons of veterans limping home from the slaughter. Past bummers roasting rabbits on the jags of broken bayonets. Past burnt-out barns and ransacked villages and meadowlands blooming with improvised crosses, by smoke-scorched mansions and the rubble-stones of homesteads, through Atlantics of head-high wheat.

It is I, Eliza Mooney, saw the works of the Lord. And I saw the hand of His enemies.

There are men strung together like beads in the meadows. Who can they be? Surely not slaves. There are no slaves any more in this manumitted nation where everything has changed and nothing has changed. The poor, Jesus said, will always be with us. And He never spoke a word about slaves.

Then rain on the steeples of Little Rock, Arkansas. Rain in the streets,in the stinking alleys. How it surges, the rain! Its gush is applause! Militia in the square. A scaffoldage being erected. Garlands, buntings are sagging damply, their reds and blues oozing into bridal whites. The fart of a tuba. The flap and whip of flags. And a hog is being roasted on a preposterous spit. And hawkers tout beans and cornbread and slumgullion, crescents of fat-faced cantaloupe. And a shout-Baptist preacher will baptize you in his barrel - be saved, be saved, o my backslidden siblings! -if only you will receive him.

Jugglers and tumblers. A fire-eater. A band. Belles in gray sashes with peacock-feather fans. Mummers, drummers: a bearded lady. St George and the Dragon dueling in masque. And as sundown comes reddening the columns of Arkansas, on limps the parade of beaten survivors, the Johnnies come marching home. And they wave to their mothers, who weep and run, and they pose for photographers, thumbs stuck in beltloops, and those without arms cradle their stumps like sick birds, and a veteran comes rolling himself along the boulevard in a bowl while flare-bursts and firecrackers and rockets' red glare crackle through the dusk-darkened clouds. And you wish you were in Dixie, hurray, hurray, and the pipes are a-calling for Danny Boy, and all of it as watched by Eliza Duane Mooney as though it had anything to do with her.

Beat the drum slowly and play the fife lowly. Everyone is screaming. You might almost think they won. The speeches are defiant, hailed by gunshots and roars (God Bless the Confederate States of America !), which the conquering officers must surely have forbidden, but obedience goes the way of the Catherine wheels. She picks a few pockets but the pickings are scanty. There are only a couple of dollars when the reckoning is done. Scarcely enough for a bed and a meal; and anyway she is whipped from the inns.

The rain don't quit for four long days and the levee is fixing to break. Sewage in rivulets dribbles from the gullies. Muleteers arrive from deep in the backlands, the out-country no one has mapped. Prisoners are unchained in order to sandbag the banks. A screed of a spiritual from the porch of a pox-hospital, commingling with the stench of urine.

Some time I feel like a motherless child

So far away from home.

The alleys are colder than those of Baton Rouge. Hoboes gamble for deadmen's clothes. Pocketa-pocketa says the train in her head, its music bubbling up through the mud. Urchins sleep in busted drains, fumbling at the cold as though it might be persuaded to blanket them. She walks the richer street, where there are trees, porches. Through the windows she sees families - she assumes they must be families, for the children resemble the adults but are graver, more formal, and little is being said at the tables as they eat. But they do not truly eat: they fork and pingle, gawping at the home-come fathers. You should never look at a child through a window at night, for his growing will be stunted if you do.

The twister skirls up. She shuffles though a downpour of frogs. She plucks them out of her hair, her pockets, her bundle: they feel like palpitating hearts. Such a rain is not possible, not in this godforsaken world, but miracles happen in the Indian territories and the faithless call them plagues.

Often in the towns she glimpses her mother. A shawlie begging, a nightwalker plying, a crone on a rummage for scraps. You can brew secret herbs to help grow you a baby and others to put one away. And she wonders why her mother did not put her away, if she knew how it was done, which she did. Perhaps for love; perhaps fear of retribution. Are love and fear cousins, like hunger and gloom? For the Irish are besotted with that moonshine of mambo, with their faeries and she-ogues and pookas and pishogues and druidry and evil eye. Bogeymen, cluricaunes, morrigans, will-o-the-wakes. The skies over Carna rustle thick with flapping craythurs: like living in a bat-cave over there. They came over on the coffinships with the keening and the jig steps. They roosted up the masts dropping guano on the famished, and the faithful are wading in faeryshite yet: they were gusted across the billows by the reeking breath above them as it roared the oratorios of vengeance. They are in it right up to their wishbones, she feels; their hobbledehoy Irish holes.
That voodoo they bring, that shriek of the keening. Your way of looking back, of saying you never left. When her belly is full, which it sometimes is in Fort Smith, for that camp-town abounds with pregnant trashcans, she swears that the future, if there is any future, will not be like the past of her mother. But when hunger returns, the gloom holds its claw, and she knows there is no prospect worth having.

A bedsheet draped sideways on the gable of a grain store, russetstained, as though commemorating a wedding night. She approaches, for it is lucky to kiss the hem of such a relic. But the closer she advances, the clearer she sees. The blemish is not a bloodstain; it is a daub of red words. Be RENT ye Stars and Stripes!

She awakens in a scutch-yard where pullets are scratching. The moon is half-full, wearing bruised purple eyes. The night smells of rain, of goats and fresh dung. She has no recollection of how she came to be here.

'Won't you come in the house?' asks the farmwoman tearfully. 'We don't got us much. But we can give you a plate of food.' The woman might be forty. She is wearing a muslin pinafore. There are little dots of red where her cheekbones come to a point. A goat-eyed husband materializes with a loaf, which he proffers. 'Take it. Go head. You bless us if you do. I'm John Cory. This my wife. In't no cause to be scared.' There is Irish in his talking. His woman is a Swede. How beautiful, her yellow hair in the lamplight.

A trio of gaunt children creep forth from the shadows. The tallest girl is hefting an infant in swaddles. 'Rest you a while. An't no one harm you here. You can sleep in the haggard, you don't want to come in the house. But you're welcome on our place. We thank God to know you.' She is unnerved by uncomplicated kindliness, having encountered it so rarely. While the Corys are sleeping, she limps from their haggard, leaves the loaf on their door-stones, and walks on, hungry.
The mileposts are mostly wrong: they were turned around in the War and nobody has twisted them back. No signboard or marker announces any town. Direction stones have been ripped up or whitewashed blank. It is as though the shamed continent has been stripped of its name, disowned by the warring parents. She estimates her co-ordinates by the track of the sun - this is her attempt, but like all simple things, it is difficult. It rises in the east, sets in the west. After that, like Mamo said, you're alone.

Twas early, early, all in the year;

The greenleaf all a growin;

When come Trickin John from the Chickasaw Bluffs

To wed with Barb'ra Allan.

Some days, her going is straight as the rhumb of a ship. Others she tacks. She veers. She gybes. She will cross private plots, will risk any dog, to keep to the course she has set. But sometimes she is adrift; rudderless as a wreck. Six long days are lost in a circling that wends her back to the crossroads where the wrong choice was made. And the devil is said to haunt the junctions of Kanzas, but nobody appears, not even a goat. She stands in the X with a lodestone in her hand, begging the night for a clue.

The blisters on her heels are pullulating; they reek. She tears strips from her hem as wrappings. Every footstep she limps, the shorter comes the garment. She pictures herself naked except for toe-rags and a fig leaf. Wandering the gardens of dust.

Two dots coming towards her from out of the north. The Gypsy and Barbara Allan? The girl is riding her beau's strong back. How pleasant, the sweethearts of spring. But as the distance between them narrows, she sees they are not sweethearts. When pretty birds sport and sing.
The soldier is being carried, his whole head is a globe of bandages, with only a slit for his mouth. His comrade stares wordless at Eliza as they pass. The mummy on his back is weeping.
When she dreams, she sees faces, thousands of them: multitudes. They remind her of an ants' nest she once disturbed behind the cabin: a gloop of spherical jellies. Not bodies, only faces - eyeless, diaphanous - and occasionally a tadpole-ish limb. She does not know who they are or anything else about them, yet she has the idea that they are somehow connected to her. They are asking her to do something, but she is not sure what. She is not sure what she could do. Nothing, probably.

In a woodland near Marais de Cygnes, taking haven from a rainstorm, which came on as suddenly and terribly as a rage, she happens upon a skeleton, still wearing its Union blues, slumped over a cannon-wheel as though kissing it goodbye. Fledglings are nesting in the bust-apart ribcage. A snakeskin coiled around a knuckle.

She tugs one of the boots from its calcified stub but it is weatherstiffened and useless and she flings it in the river. There is a letter from a sweetheart in the dead man's clutch-sack, scrawled on the back of a torn-out flyleaf. She scans it and blushes. She takes his gourd.

Dear Pat. I wish you were with me this night. I long for a touch of you. I am your boldest girl.

Water tastes sweeter when drunk from cedarwood. She sips, then slugs, but her thirst cannot be slaked. It wakes her in the mornings like a mouthful of boiling sand. She can look in the face of hunger, having never not been hungry. The thirst is the truer murderer.

I have on me that dress you like for to write this. How I wish you would. I think about that night. God forgive me on Sunday I wanted you so bad. My breasts are grown heavy for the treasure you sowed in me. Where are you gone Pat? Why do you not.

Decorous capitals of the rip-maimed page:
From the gibbet of a curlicue, a hanged man dangles: scribble of a fatherless child.
That day, or the next, she is not quite sure, she realizes who the dreamfaces are. All the people she will never know. A needle of grief slides into her spine for the unbefriended pismire.
She is standing on a granite outlook gazing down on a cornfield. A ripple of wind moves steadily across it, diagonally, slow, a rolling wave of shadow, a sight so staggeringly beautiful that her eyes spurt tears.

Every fourth Sunday she pins a red flower on her smock, for Mamo said it quells womanly pain. She rests up, and sleeps extra, and chews fistfuls of wild comfrey. They do not dull the ache but they render it bearable, like an unwanted remembrance that must somehow be accommodated. Monday at dawn she starts walking again. There will not be many more Mondays, nor dawns, nor flowers. She is nearing the end of her life, she feels, and many more miles to go.
Westward over Kanzas. New signboards appear, their capitals lurid as wounds. Hamilton's Creek. Gargery's Mountain. Logan's Ford. Pederson's Hollow. Cronin's Landing. Sheperton's Ridge. Buckley's Plot. John Anderson's Firth. Who are these Kanzans that own the handiwork of God? Has any other country such place-names?

My race is run, beneath the sun;

The gallows for Richard Lee;

For I did ruin that innocent child

Whose name was Rose Dupree.
She finds a candle stub on the road near Mute Creek, Kanzas. You never kill the spark that lingers when you blow out the wick, because long as it glows some sinner in purgatory is given a respite from her tortures.

Spring will come again. The trees will be leafed-out. The world will be a dapple of apple-blossomed light. The corpses in the furrows will molder to loam, and wheat will put forth from them, and there will be food enough for everyone, and the stooks of blond-haired corn shall be lofted like idols, and the lion shall lay by the Lincolns. There are moments when it is possible to believe there will be peace in the valley. But they do not come plentifully any more.

She is skilled with the slingshot, can drop a bird from the sky. But you must have a care what creature you eat in strange country. She scorches them on her fire, blackens them to the guts, but they taste like scorched rats: rancid, raw-chickeny.

If you disturb an ants' nest, the adults gather the eggs and flee. Return a minute later. The spawn will have vanished.

The refugees wonder where is she walking to. This cadaverous madwoman in her ash-dusted rags, who leaves footprints of blood, whose limbs are begrimed, whose face looks as though it has been forced through a mangle before being sutured back on to her skull. She carries a pound of dirt on her clothes. This barefoot nobody: what can be her story? And why is she padding for the wilderness of the north country? Got nothin up there for a manless woman. Nothin up there for no one.

A carny propositions her in a ghost town near Blackwell. He will pay a Union eagle dollar but what he wants she cannot make herself do. A compromise is agreed by which she will accept a Barbado doubloon; but his pleasure once achieved, if pleasure it was, he refuses to pay, says he never wanted it at all, so she slashes his throat and leaves him gurgling blasphemies, and now, as he dies, he has something to want.

Glintings in the distance. What can they be? Are stars raining down on the land like frogs? As she nears to the flickers, she sees what is happening. A sight she must be imagining. Carters heft sheets of glass from a waggon, roughly, hurriedly: the odd pane falls and breaks. The overseer shrieks that they are not to be broken, they cost the Master a dollar a dozen. They are passed hand to hand along a chain of men, who are spackling them into the ribs of a greenhouse. She stops. She watches. Plates of shining glass. And each bears the face of a soldier.

They must be the ones who did not come back, who never returned to pay the photographer. Farmers. Husbands. Old men. Boys. The sun burns hard through their reticent smiles. In a year they will all be burned away.

Strange languages are heard beyond the sheughs at night, from the dark unseen where the waggons pitch camp. The mischief-calls of children, long masculine harroos, the clanking of cauldrons being thrivelled with heavy ladles. A boy runs into the boreen near what is now La Junta, Colorado; at that time the place was nameless. He gawps at her, bugeyed, as though startled by a hag. He backs away, dreadfully, thumbing the cross on his collarbone, and scurries over a dike with a bleat for Mamacita.

That night, her own tombstone appears to her in a dream: a chunk of blackened mahogany bristling with coffin nails. Gardenias snaking through the mausoleum's cracks. Hammer in your spike, her ghost performs a hoodoo. Je Vous Salue, Marie. Fruit of thy womb. She died to make men holy. Let us die to make them free.

The murderess awakens, already walking. How can you dream when you're awake? Her gaze ranges ahead, perpetually ahead, fixed on the vanishing point, the unreachable horizon. Locusts click around her: a telegraphy that says: 'This road will never end.' But there cannot be locusts at this season of the year. Where do they go in winter?

The sunlight smarts her eyes. It blinks through the elms. At a crossroads near Bitter Lake she sees her long-dead father, lurching through the plantings with a crossbeam on his back and a convict slavering at his heels. But when she gapes again, he has turned to a scarecrow: wind-buckled, crippled, in a threadbare frockcoat, with a spade handle for shoulder-bones and a clog for a left foot. 'M' is stamped into the clog.

The ruins of a plantation house burning in her memory. A Corinth collapsing in alabaster dust. It falls slowly, seen from this distance, buckling in on itself, while the wrecking crew and the Captain observe from the tobacco field - but one defiant pillar emerges from the mortarcloud, enrubbled up to its waist. Burnt cotton in the air. And rooks. And scorched banknotes. Strange confetti, those gallowsblack angels. And she pictures a story dragging on the boreen behind her, tailing back to Louisiana like a train. Miss Havisham I am. I stopped my clocks. Cause my sweetman done me wrong.

And one dawn she awakens with a chemise in her hands, having no intimation how she came to possess it. It is like a piece of costuming for some theatrical presentation: braided, sumptuous, with rosettes of chenille. Did the magi stop in the night? Why did they stop? She reefs it asunder; swathes her seeping feet. It is glued to the whelks of her wounds.

She is outside a roofless chapel on Christmas Eve morning. Its bell clonging leadenly. She can feel it hurt her teeth. She approaches with caution, as an Apache towards a shyster, and peers through the doorway for the homily.

The snow falls slowly into the transept: feathers of snow-white snow. The congregants in greatcoats under skeletal umbrellas. Shivering. Hunched. Defiant. There is no organ to accompany them, or, if there is, no one is playing it. Only the zizz of a goatskin tambourine, placking out a funereal cadence.





In ages




for years

to come...

She prays for those she will never know: for her mother, the child, the dead President, the ants, the boys who were brave and afraid in the War, the boys who slaughtered the innocent. And the preacher dons a stovepipe to hurry home to his gruel. The Reverend Baron Samedi. In his gun-hand he carries the key of the church; a prayerbook under his oxter.

Saint Jeddo. Pray for us.

Father in Hell. Pray for us.

John Cory. Pray for us.

Rose Dupree. Pray for us.

In the morning, as she is shaken from the preacher's rusting bed, he weeps that he cannot afford what they agreed. The tithe-plate was so poor. The people are so poor. Everything they planted was foraged. He presses into her hands a pair of work boots. Belonged to his son. In an asylum in California. Lost his legs at Pechacho Pass. Tried to take his own life. Won't never be coming home.

The preacher is gray in the face with guilt. She must go before anyone notices.

It is still dark as she winters out. The snow crisp and brittle; as though communion wafers have been spread beneath her soles. A whirling of sleet. Wearing her payment is an agony. In the end she tries to hurl them over the shoulder-bone of an oak, but her throw is weak and they catch on one of its fingers where they dangle by their laces. Bootfruit.

The first light comes; a cold, hard dawn. Out of the mist loom giants. She is facing into the mountainland.

She is an ant on a map. She talks to herself as she walks.

And I cannot face her. I cannot face her.

For this walk is for my redemption.

Read More Show Less


Discussion Questions

1. In the author's note, Joseph O'Connor explains "the book is structured around the absences of all its central characters precisely at the moments when their presences would save everything." How does this apply to each of the novel's main characters — Eliza Duane Mooney, Jeremiah Mooney, Lucia-Cruz McLelland, James Con O'Keeffe, Cole McLaurenson, and Elizabeth Longstreet?

2. The novel includes posters, poems, letters, newspaper clippings, songs, transcripts, and other items that relate to the characters or the plot. How did these devices enhance the overall story? Were there any items that confused you? If so, which ones? What other writers use this technique in their work?

3. "She is walking to stand still, not to travel into a story" (page 6). What is Eliza moving toward; what is she walking away from? Discuss her quest — what does her journey symbolize and how is it crucial to the novel's theme?

4. "I have known brave men. I have wished to be one of them. But conscience makes a coward of us all" (page 123). Discuss courage vs. conscience in war. How is this struggled reflected in Redemption Falls?

5. "'I loved you,' Lucia writes, 'before ever your hand touched me, before ever I saw you or heard spoken your name" (page 148). Why do Lucia and O'Keeffe stay together? What makes their relationship so tumultuous? How does the presence of Jeremiah Mooney affect their marriage?

6. "I never once did kill no man that didn't need to die" (page 209). What is Cole McLaurenson's mission and what fuels it?" Does this justify his actions?

7. "It is a horrible thing to own — to be owned by — a secret, and to walkabout with it corroding your spirit as you go" (page 262). What is Lucia's secret? What secrets own the other main characters of the novel?

8. What is Elizabeth Longstreet's role in this novel? Describe her relationships with Lucia, O'Keefe, and Jeremiah.

9. "My collection includes forgeries" (page 443). How did this statement affect you? Do you think it is a fair technique, reminding the reader that history can contain lies? Did you have your suspicions while reading this novel? What does this say about how our history is told?

10. How are all the main characters linked together in Redemption Falls? When did the connection become apparent to you? Would any of the individual stories stand alone as a novel or are the themes of each of their stories dependent on the other characters' perspectives?

11. Does Redemption Falls have anything to say about America's subsequent history? Does it inform our understanding of the United States in our own era?

12. A fun question! If James O'Keeffe, Lucia McLelland, Allen Winterton, and Elizabeth Longstreet were alive today, for which American political parties or candidates do you think they would vote? And why? What do you think they would like and dislike about our own world?

Reader Tips

1. Go to battle: Take your bookclub to a Civil War battleground site. (Go to to find one in your area.)

2. Contribute to the professor's collection: Write a poem about the fates of the characters of Redemption Falls.

3. Celebrate the Irish: Take your book club to an Irish event. (To find one in your area, go to

Read More Show Less

Reading Group Guide

1. Redemption Falls is a tale told my multiple narrators – why do you think that the author has used this technique and what do you think is the impact on the novel? Did you identify with one narrator more strongly than the others and, if so, why?

2. Discuss how the author has evoked the atmosphere of America post-Civil War, and whether you think he has been successful.

3. What does the inclusion of posters, poems, letters, newspaper clippings, songs, transcripts bring to the story? Can you think of any other writers that deploy a range of sources in their writing?

4. The novel features real people and real historical events; did it matter to you what was historical fact and what was fiction? Did it inspire you to learn more about this period of history?

5. The author has explained that the book started with an image in his mind of a girl, walking barefoot into an unknown country – if you were to describe the novel to a friend, what one single image would you use to encapsulate the story? Consider this in relation to the book’s jacket (both hardback and paperback if you have them); what would you have chosen to put on the cover?

6. Discuss Lucia and James O’Keefe’s relationship; what effect does the arrival of mute Jeremiah Mooney have on their relationship?

7. There are some very violent acts and images in the novel – would you describe Redemption Falls as a violent book?

8. When writing about the novel, the author explained that he wanted ‘Redemption Falls to have a soundtrack’. Do you think he achieved this? Why do you think he thought it was important to introduce music into the very narrative itself through the ballads and songs he includes?

9. Did the revelation of the narrator’s identity affect your opinion of the novel? Why do you think the author chose to keep it a secret until the end of the book?

Read More Show Less

Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3.5
( 5 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star


4 Star


3 Star


2 Star


1 Star


Your Rating:

Your Name: Create a Pen Name or

Barnes & Review Rules

Our reader reviews allow you to share your comments on titles you liked, or didn't, with others. By submitting an online review, you are representing to Barnes & that all information contained in your review is original and accurate in all respects, and that the submission of such content by you and the posting of such content by Barnes & does not and will not violate the rights of any third party. Please follow the rules below to help ensure that your review can be posted.

Reviews by Our Customers Under the Age of 13

We highly value and respect everyone's opinion concerning the titles we offer. However, we cannot allow persons under the age of 13 to have accounts at or to post customer reviews. Please see our Terms of Use for more details.

What to exclude from your review:

Please do not write about reviews, commentary, or information posted on the product page. If you see any errors in the information on the product page, please send us an email.

Reviews should not contain any of the following:

  • - HTML tags, profanity, obscenities, vulgarities, or comments that defame anyone
  • - Time-sensitive information such as tour dates, signings, lectures, etc.
  • - Single-word reviews. Other people will read your review to discover why you liked or didn't like the title. Be descriptive.
  • - Comments focusing on the author or that may ruin the ending for others
  • - Phone numbers, addresses, URLs
  • - Pricing and availability information or alternative ordering information
  • - Advertisements or commercial solicitation


  • - By submitting a review, you grant to Barnes & and its sublicensees the royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable right and license to use the review in accordance with the Barnes & Terms of Use.
  • - Barnes & reserves the right not to post any review -- particularly those that do not follow the terms and conditions of these Rules. Barnes & also reserves the right to remove any review at any time without notice.
  • - See Terms of Use for other conditions and disclaimers.
Search for Products You'd Like to Recommend

Recommend other products that relate to your review. Just search for them below and share!

Create a Pen Name

Your Pen Name is your unique identity on It will appear on the reviews you write and other website activities. Your Pen Name cannot be edited, changed or deleted once submitted.

Your Pen Name can be any combination of alphanumeric characters (plus - and _), and must be at least two characters long.

Continue Anonymously
Sort by: Showing all of 5 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted February 6, 2008

    Joseph O'Connor--a literary genius!

    I can't stop thinking about this novel. (And it is fiction, although I was convinced otherwise while reading it.) I was somewhat confused at first, but after 'catching on' to the story, I was enthralled by the characters, story & authenticity of this wonderfully-written book. Mr. O'Connor's brilliant writing has convinced me that he is a literary genius. This novel has everything--history, passion, violence, wonderful & believable characters, etc. I could go on and on.

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted October 16, 2009


    I was not thrilled with the way this book progressed. I've read books written in diary or letter form that were very good, but this story didn't worok for me. I didn't care about the characters at all.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted July 17, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    A storyteller with the grit and guts to write a gripping account

    A storyteller with the grit and guts to write a gripping account of life of those living through and after the Civil War. Many trekked West to open land, and rough towns with their own laws. Life could be hard, mean, and difficult to survive for some, determined for others to find their place, and this storyteller had me spellbound throughout this page-turning novel. Well written. One to add to my bookshelves so others may someday enjoy.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted January 18, 2011

    more from this reviewer


    Do not, I repeat do not waste your money! I only finished this book and did not put it down because I've put myself on this 2011 book challenge and I didn't want to give up. It drags. It is 80% of the time confusing 20% slightly interesting. I at first thought, ok, it's the writing style. It's different but kinda cool... but then it got boring. There were various points in the book when as a reader one thought, now we will finally be pulled into the plot and we will be excited and enthralled When friends asked how this book was I would groan and say "when will it be over...". There is no need to touch on any of the characters of the book in this review because I really hope to not hear their names again..I'm done. I'm so done and excited for my next book read. I vote this book as most likely to be put into some old box in an attic like the confederate tale it goes on and on and on and on about.........Sorry, did'nt like it.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted February 1, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

Sort by: Showing all of 5 Customer Reviews

If you find inappropriate content, please report it to Barnes & Noble
Why is this product inappropriate?
Comments (optional)