This hefty bit of Irish homespun weaves a straightforward narrative too laden with local historical detail and genealogical...


THERE IS AN ISLE: A Limerick Boyhood

This hefty bit of Irish homespun weaves a straightforward narrative too laden with local historical detail and genealogical data to rouse much interest beyond the banks of the River Shannon. The ""isle"" of O'Flynn's title refers primarily to the King's Island section of Limerick and secondarily to the Emerald Isle itself. In recalling his first boat ride around the former island, he notes, ""I wouldn't mind at all if the joys of heaven included occasional repeats of that circumnavigation."" Indeed, O'Flynn writes as if he'd survived one of those golden we-didn't-know-we-were-poor childhoods, though some of the stories he relates would indicate otherwise. Born in 1927, he comes by many of his recollections of the troubles with the Black-and-Tans secondhand. The family home on Old Church Street, however, bore pockmarks from bullets fired during the Siege of Limerick. (The O'Flynns, who had eight children, lived there together with the Sheehans, who had five.) He recalls a raid on the house when the troops apparently went looking for his mother's younger brother, Joe. O'Flynn's father was a coal-beller--that is, a salesman--who also played saxophone in a local dance band. O'Flynn believed, however, that he really had two fathers: one covered in black soot, the other slicked-up for Friday-night performances. His ""poor mother,"" chronically overworked, nevertheless found time to tell bedtime stories, though she usually fell asleep during the telling. Her son showers us with historical lore and background material, and spares no detail about growing up within the embrace of the Catholic Church. Indeed, ""the 'little Catholic' that I was in Limerick in the 1930s grew into the 'old Catholic' that I am as I write these words."" His self-conscious narration and belaboring of the obvious choke off bits that might otherwise entertain. Like most reflections on Irish boyhood, this one compares poorly to Frank McCourt's Angela's Ashes.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998


Page Count: 350

Publisher: Mercier/Irish American

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1998

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