The Chicago-born O'Grady (Motherland, 1990) and Britisher Pyke collaborate to form an unusually expressive book of visual and written images, photos enhancing the mournful, lyrical story of a musical Irishman's migration to England in search of fieldwork and other hard labor—and finding the love of his life only to lose her. As he remembers the past, the narrator fixes images of an impoverished farm childhood in Labasheeda: music and the accordion become integral parts of his life, while siblings and neighbors leave home to seek fortunes abroad. His first love goes unrequited, and work as a hired farmhand on Irish soil hastens the day of his own departure, when Ma packs sandwiches, eggs, and a rosary, and Da won't say goodbye. In England, digging potatoes gives way to a transient life of factory work and road repair, with music in the pub of an evening. Da dies, then Ma, and the deep black laborer's hole the narrator is in seems about to claim him for eternity, until Maggie gives a glow to his life with her quick wit as he draws her in with his reels and laments. But when Maggie dies shortly after the two have married and returned to Ireland, all light is extinguished and only the familiar, anonymous toil the bereaved husband had known in Britain can offer comfort until time heals the wound. A tale of sorrow, finely told and delicately illustrated.
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