The Moon Over Kilmore Quay by Carmel Harrington
Leaving home for another country, another way of life, is an experience that shapes lives, sometimes over generations. This clever novel is a fascinating picture of the Irish community in New York, one that has existed for decades and is still vibrant today.Looking through the eyes of two young women, Lucy and Bea, it has much to say about the difference in lifestyle between Ireland and New York, the power of community and ultimately the strength of female friendship. One woman, Lucy, moves from Ireland in 1992, leaving her parents and all that she has ever really known, to find adventure with her sister. Bea was brought up in a family home, Innisfree, in Brooklyn, and over a period from 2019 to 2020 makes some stunning discoveries which took me by surprise. This novel is excellent on place, the differences between the sight, scenes and more, between Ireland and New York, as well as the things that link them. Both women are firm friends with two others; it is this which really sets this book apart in some ways despite all the challenges that they face. Lucy and Bea have realistic voices, well able to keep the stories of their lives going, truthful about themselves and those around them. I was pleased to have the opportunity to read and review this tremendous book.
The book opens with Bea receiving a letter from her ten year old self, written in 2003. On New Year’s Eve, 2019, she is alone, opening the letter that will propel her into thinking of her past, her friends Stephanie and Katrina, her boyfriend Dan who she is no longer with, and the family she has grown up in the heart of, with the greater Irish community in the background. The letter itself will go on to lead her into many sorts of questions about herself and others, questions that she feels compelled to answer. Then the story of Lucy appears, beginning with a national lottery which she enters with her friend Michelle and her sister Maeve. It is to win a Visa for America, the chance to emigrate from Dublin, from the house next to Nellie’s pub. Michelle does not win a chance, but both Lucy and Maeve find themselves with the opportunity to leave, to find a new life. Lucy is especially torn about leaving her parents and all she has ever known, whereas Maeve comes up with the fiction that it is just for the summer. Arriving in New York with all its differences, its atmosphere and so much more, both girls are a little bewildered, but Lucy soon discovers the joys of the Irish community with Ryan who she meets accidentally outside the library. She is invited to Innisfree where she meets his parents and his brother Mike. Bea’s story also develops; she feels the need to contact her friend Stephanie, whose own life is traumatic, and with Katrina they rediscover their deep friendship. Events for both women take over, and they make further discoveries which rock their lives.
This is a difficult book to review without giving too much away, and it is not a straightforward read. It is a book that will linger in the memory of its careful writing, its consistent characters, and its basic message of the importance of love and friendship.