an Irish Memoir
by Thomas J. Rice
Far From the Land was on my bookshelf because I won it from Carrie K. in a giveaway. I'm glad that the Dare finally encouraged me to pick up this book.
Rice's memoir is about growing up in rural Ireland on a poor, rocky farm that barely sustained his family. He tells about the community spirit, neighbors coming together to help each other. About the poor schooling, running up and down the mountainsides with his friends, playing Gaelic football (quite rougher than the version of soccer I'm familiar with!), working with his neighbor's fabulous Arabian horses, passion for music and dance, many things. Being the only son and sole child remaining at home when his older sisters all emigrated, he quit school at an early age to help his mother on the farm (his father being mostly absent) and worked hard to make it a more prosperous place. But eventually he realized that there wasn't much future on such poor land, and convinced his mother to sell everything so they could move to America. After seeing how tightly knit their community was, and how much pride they took in working the land, it was heartbreaking to see them pull up their roots and leave it all behind. Their first stop in Sheffield, England where one of his sisters had a boarding house, was much more difficult than they'd imagined, but young Rice (only seventeen) and his mother persisted in following their dream against all obstacles. The book is about more than just his family and experiences growing up. There's also quite a lot of Irish history, which I pretty much unfamiliar with, so the first few chapters were a bit difficult to get through. But eventually I came to see how all the legends, heroes and tales kept alive in ballads and oral memories were an integral part of the people's character, and shaped what they were even though the events were several generations past. Rice's own mother was involved in the Irish Civil War of 1922 and quite the local hero; everyone looked up to her and she really was an amazing woman. I really enjoyed reading this memoir. It was thoughtful, colorful, poignant and humorous at times. Full of unforgettable characters and wonderful tales. I'm anxious to see if Rice writes another book about his experiences in America someday...
Rating: 4/5 ......... 358 pages, 2009
more opinions at:
Books and Movies
5 Minutes for Books