The Battle of Belleau Wood ended four years before, but former American Marine chaplain Robert Shannon is still suffering from shell shock incurred in the fight. Finally, in the summer of 1922, he travels to the Ireland to find his family roots and some personal tranquility. What this fragile, gentle man does not know is that his trip to the Emerald Isle was facilitated by agents of the Archdiocese of Boston who know that his testimony could ruin them. As Ireland struggles through its own civil war, Shannon moves towards healing even as he grapples with terrors he can never quite leave behind. A smoothly plotted, well-researched historical novel by the author of Ireland.
Delaney handles Shannon's therapeutic journey with sympathy and skill, introducing a diverse cast of Irish characters and layering the narrative with the sort of arcane native lorehistorical, cultural and geographicthat adds a welcome depth of background to the central story. His descriptions of the condition once known as shell shock are detailed and convincing
The Washington Post
Delaney's meandering novel follows an American priest as he travels along Ireland's Shannon River in search of his family roots, and while it's peace he seeks, trouble has a way of finding him. After witnessing the atrocities of WWI, Father Robert Shannon returns to the United States shell-shocked, and the church eventually sends him to Ireland to restore himself and seek out his origins along the famed Shannon River. Along the way, he gets by through the kindness of strangers and witnesses Ireland's descent into civil war. With leads to his family history few and far between, Robert finds comfort in the home of a nurse he knew while serving as a chaplain during the war in France. Meanwhile, there's a hired killer from the states hot on his tail, and an unknowing Robert could make for a very easy target. The narrative is slow and thoughtful, spiritual though not overbearing and rounded out with a nice vein of intrigue. Though the family roots/hired gun mix may sound bizarre, Delaney handles the disparate thematic elements with a sure hand. (Feb.)Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
In 1922, Robert Shannon, a young American priest, is sent to Ireland to recover from shell shock he received as a marine chaplain on the front lines in Normandy. Pained by the tragedy he experienced in the trenches and demoralized by the corruption he encountered when he returned to the Boston archdiocese, Shannon is searching for his soul as much as for his family's Irish roots. His religious mentor, sensing Shannon's torment, has arranged for a network of priests, teachers, and friends to watch over and shelter him during his travels. From them, Shannon learns Irish myths, legends, and history as well as the politics of the recently fought rebellion. He also reunites with a nurse with whom he served in France, which causes him to rethink his future as a priest. Delaney's latest Irish saga (after, e.g., Tipperary) is filled with the warmth and richness of the Irish character found in his previous books as well as a satisfying dose of romance. A hit man hired by the archdiocese of Boston is the only minor irritation in an otherwise compelling and thoroughly entertaining read. Highly recommended. [See Prepub Alert, LJ 11/1/08.]
Susan Clifford Braun
A rousing tale of forbidden love, civil war, horrible death and other things Irish. Ireland-born novelist Delaney (Tipperary, 2007, etc.) never met a turning point in the Emerald Isle's history that he didn't like. With this entry in his ongoing epic cycle of novels, he turns to a big one: the bloody strife that accompanied the birth of the Irish Free State in 1922 and '23. American priest Robert Shannon lands on Ireland's shore just as the bullets start flying, and bad luck for him: A former chaplain serving with the U.S. Marines in France during World War I, he suffers from a textbook case of shell shock. That malady occasions a characteristically encyclopedic aside from Delaney, just as the book opens, on the etiology and management of posttraumatic stress-and readers who dislike didacticism should be warned that his narrative often pauses to break the fourth wall and explain what's what: "One of the symptoms of their illness . . . is a morbid irritability-they tend to become upset and to take offense at the merest trifles-and this leads to trouble with the other patients, the nurses, and the medical officers responsible for discipline." Morbid irritability being an Irish specialty, Shannon fits right in with the village folk he is called to serve, out in the country in which, the locals say, Saint Patrick himself was afraid to wander. Shannon restructures his shattered life while wandering in places where he's not supposed to, including the arms of a widow lady-but it would be spoiling things to tell, save to note that Delaney explains, "In the Ireland of 1922, virginity dominated the lives of single women, and the relevant fire and brimstone rained down every Sunday from pulpits allover the country." How this transgression resolves, and how Shannon manages to keep from cracking up in his war-torn adopted country, makes for a fine adventure in storytelling. A well-crafted, satisfying work of historical fiction, as are all of Delaney's novels; respectful of the facts while not cowed by them, and full of life. Author tour to Boston, New York, Washington, D.C., Chicago/Milwaukee, Minneapolis, Kansas City, Dallas, Seattle, Portland, Ore., San Francisco. Agent: Ed Victor/Ed Victor Ltd.
“A rousing tale of forbidden love, civil war, horrible death and other things Irish. …A fine adventure in storytelling…[and] a well-crafted, satisfying work of historical fiction, as are all of Delaney’s novels; respectful of the facts while not cowed by them, and full of life.” —Kirkus Reviews
“A tale of personal healing and spiritual redemption against the Irish Civil war…Delaney takes great pains to evoke not only the physical but spiritual beauty of the land and people along the River Shannon. He provides incredibly researched details about not only the geological nature of a river winding its way to the sea but the mystical effect this simple body of water has had on its residents for millennia [and] provides timely insights about the raw, damaged output of war and the far-reaching impact it can have…This book is almost impossible to put down and provides a very satisfying, and maybe even surprising, conclusion to all the different storylines.”—Midwest Irish Focus
“Thoughtful, spiritual though not overbearing, and rounded out with a nice vein of intrigue.” —Publishers Weekly
“Delaney makes his lovely, battered country a character of its own.”—USA Today
“A gripping story . . . As with Charles Frazier’s Cold Mountain and a couple of other recent works, [Shannon] is the story of an odyssey. . . . Delaney again shows himself to be a master user of the language, a master at historical fiction and a master storyteller in the Irish tradition.”—Winston-Salem Journal
“An engaging read . . . filled with eccentric characters, treachery, and ultimately, redemption.”—The Star-Ledger
“Delaney, a native of Ireland . . . knows the territory. Ireland is a living place and its people compelling.”—Rocky Mountain News