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The Walking People (2009)

af Mary Beth Keane

MedlemmerAnmeldelserPopularitetGennemsnitlig vurderingOmtaler
17219123,142 (3.72)22
Greta Cahill never believed she would leave her village in the west of Ireland until she found herself on a ship bound for New York. Labeled a "softheaded goose" by her family, Greta discovers that in America she can fall in love, raise her own family, and earn a living. Though she longs to return and show her family what she has made of herself, her decision to spare her children knowledge of a secret in her past forces her to keep her life in New York separate from the life she once loved in Ireland, and tears her apart from the people she is closest to. Even fifty years later, when the Ireland of her memory bears little resemblance to that of present day, she fears that it is still possible to lose all when she discovers that her children--with the best of intentions--have conspired to unite the worlds she's so carefully kept separate for decades.… (mere)
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Viser 1-5 af 19 (næste | vis alle)
I actually enjoyed listening to this. It was OK, but......

This is one of those books definitely improved by its narration, very well done by Sile Bermingham! Great Irish brogue, and the different women all sound unique. Still, when you look at the book as a whole, you are left rather flat. What does it give you? A "cute" telling of the Irish immigrant story in NYC. Not the early immigrants, but the ones that came in the 60s. Family life and friendship between workmates. What was the sandhog experience like? The job of the sandhog, digging the tunnels for the water pipes of NYC, that too. Half of the book is about the life of Irish gypsies, the "walking people" and life in rural Ireland. Sister relationships, and aging, serious accidents and who exactly is the true mother, the birth mother or the one who raises a child? All of this is covered - some parts flow better than others, but all these different parts are patchy. There is humor and sadness. The poignant end could have been improved. Was the part about Alzheimer's really necessary? You start in 2007, flip back to the past and then go forward to 2007. The book was OK, and certainly very well narrated.

**************

I have chosen to read this book for two reasons. First of all I really liked Mary Beth Keane's Fever, so I have to read another by this talented author. Secondly, when I listened to the sample of this book by the author I both loved the narration by Sile Bermingham, with her wonderful Irish tone, and discovered it begins with a section about NYC sandhogs. Sandhogs is a term used for the Irish, Italian and West Indian immigrants that first dug the tunnels between Manhattan and Brooklyn. So.... I think illogically that the book may be similar to Colum McCann's This Side of Brightness, also about sandhogs! I loved that book, except for its stupid ending. I know this is all rather illogical; I will not get a a continuation of McCann's book, but still it might be good. ( )
2 stem chrissie3 | Sep 10, 2013 |
Sisters Johanna and Greta Cahill encounter Michael Ward for the first time when his mother is found dead on their property in Ballyroan, Ireland. He returns to the area years later and finds the sisters still living there with their mother, Lily, and older brother, Little Tom; their father is dead and their two other brothers have left for Australia. When Lily discovers that Johanna is planning to leave their tiny village for New York with Michael, she allows them to go - but insists they take Greta as well.

Though in Ireland Greta was the "silly goose," the younger, faraway sibling, and Johanna was the brash, confident one, in New York Greta blooms and Johanna sinks into depression. From the prologue, the reader knows that Michael and Greta end up together, so the question throughout the book is not what happens, but how does it happen?

The Walking People is a story of resilience, love, loyalty, and family. The pacing is slow, but the story is never dull.

Quotes:

...Lily felt she could really miss only the [families] who'd left most recently. To miss everyone at once, to look up and down the road at the boarded-up houses nearly swallowed by grass, and to think of every single person who used to live in Ballyroan would be too much. (91)

Shannon...drew from the local words her parents had braided into their lives in Queens. Words that, oddly, made sense in that crowded place, where everyone, every single day, talked about home, and where home always meant somewhere else. (92)

Even now, a day later, headed farther west on the same bicycle, he didn't know whether he was leaving or had left or was just taking a few days out of the routine....But...the more he insisted on one way of looking at the thing, the more false that one way seemed. (114)

His father, Michael wanted to explain, thought of all of Ireland as his own, but Michael saw every field, every roof, every turn and dip of the road as belonging to someone else. And they were both right. (129)

I understand now, Michael wanted to tell his father, already shaping the letters in his mind like Greta had taught him. We don't settle in places. We settle in people. (216)

On the rare occasions where their letters arrived on the same day, Greta felt exactly as if her mother had taken her left hand, Johanna her right, and at the same moment decided to walk in opposite directions without letting go. (233)

Dermot Ward always said that too many secrets would turn a woman old before her time. Men, yes, they could handle secrets, but a woman with a secret was a woman turned inside out. (255)

For Greta, home was not a place that coexisted with America, a place that went on and grew and changed at the same time New York was growing and changing. It felt more like Ireland had ended where America began, as if it were something out of America's past. (280)

There were things parents didn't have to explain to children. American parents explained everything to their children....Greta and Michael had explained only as much as they wanted to explain, and placed the rest firmly off limits. (341)

They'd worked so hard to bring Ireland to America as an intact place that they could live inside, and they had succeeded, keeping their customs the same as they were in the year they'd left, making the preservation of the old ways a new kind of religion. They didn't realize until it was too late that home had moved on, grown up, left the old customs behind. It was as if these exiles had used every last dollar to bet on a horse they didn't own, didn't love, weren't interested in loving, but one that had promised to give them the best return. It was as if that horse had been winning, as expected, for the entire race. Winning by yards, in fact. A seemingly untouchable distance. And just as they bent their heads to calculate their earnings, that horse was left behind by the wild card, the underdog, the one they'd have preferred to lay their bet down for in the first place. (372-373)

"You think four hundred years can be erased in forty?" (375)

( )
1 stem JennyArch | Apr 3, 2013 |
Really excellent debut novel, about the Cahill family from Co. Galway who meet a Tinker, Michael Ward as teens, and in the early 60's the two sisters Johanna and Greta along with Michael emmigrate to New York City.

After falling pregnant at 17 with Michael, Johanna abandons her baby, which Greta and Michael raise together.

Wonderfully told and evocative of the ways of the Tinkers, Ireland during the 1950s without electricity and its backwards ways. Rich character development with Greta's changing from an awkward and slow child to an accomplished and strong woman to Michael who worked as a sandhog in the water tunnels underneath Manhattan as he slowly succubs to dementia. ( )
  coolmama | Jul 25, 2012 |
In the mid-50s, many of the families living on the West coast of Ireland already immigrated to surrounding countries and the United States of America. Johanna (18) is intrigued by the prospect of adventure, yet her younger sister, Greta (16) who isn't that adept at managing her life, has concerns about leaving the rest of the family at home. Eventually, Johanna meets a gypsy boy, Michael, and the three of them travel to the new world.

The Walking People is not focused on the walking people per se, but it does contain characters that have lifestyles that resemble the gypsies in one form or another. Its focus is about family and the challenges and joys that life can bring.

This is Mary Beth Keane's debut novel and it is well done. There were 5 sections to the book that indicated a change in time and concluded in 2007. I enjoyed the section that switched to an epistolary style. That was a nice addition. The plot, in general, was a bit slow for my taste, but I still liked reading about Greta's life. She had a simple personality, but she grew and changed over the decades. (3.75/5)

Originally posted on: Thoughts of Joy ( )
  ThoughtsofJoyLibrary | Jul 11, 2010 |
Two sisters leave their remote Irish home along with a Gypsy boy. Beautiful description of their lives in Ireland. They move to NYC, where the older sister becomes pregnant with the gypsy's child. She heads west after the baby is born, leaving the younger sister to raise the child. Preferred the first half of the book, in Ireland. The main character, Gretchen, isn't entirely likable, with her propensity to hold secrets and to hoard items she steals. Author effectively shows Gretchen and Michael settling into their new lives, letting the secret help divide them from their Irish connections. ( )
  mryan8279 | Oct 21, 2009 |
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At exactly 6:16 on Friday morning the front attendant at Champion Parking Garage looked up from the nine-inch monitor of his television screen and watched Michael Ward steer his car onto the lot of the construction site at the corner of Thirtieth Street and Tenth Avenue.
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At home in Ballyroan, in the single-story cottage that stood beside the sea, in the bed she shared with her older sister, eight-year-old Greta Cahill woke before dawn to a sound that was not the ocean, was not the animals bawling into the wind, was not a slammed gate, a clanging cowbell, or the rain beating on the gable.
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Greta Cahill never believed she would leave her village in the west of Ireland until she found herself on a ship bound for New York. Labeled a "softheaded goose" by her family, Greta discovers that in America she can fall in love, raise her own family, and earn a living. Though she longs to return and show her family what she has made of herself, her decision to spare her children knowledge of a secret in her past forces her to keep her life in New York separate from the life she once loved in Ireland, and tears her apart from the people she is closest to. Even fifty years later, when the Ireland of her memory bears little resemblance to that of present day, she fears that it is still possible to lose all when she discovers that her children--with the best of intentions--have conspired to unite the worlds she's so carefully kept separate for decades.

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