The forces that sent one of the great waves of immigrants to the US are exemplified by an Irish family's troubles during the potato famine that began in 1846. The people of Eamonn's tiny village are already poorer than poor when, in a harrowing opening scene, English soldiers demolish their homes and leave them destitute: absentee English landlords no longer want tenants; they have decided to raise sheep. Struggling toward Dublin, where rumor has it (erroneously) that there is work, Eamonn's family pauses in Tullamore to leave Grandma in the poorhouse: she can walk no further. When Grandma dies, the others stay on and Dad does get work, though the men are not always paid. Eamonn makes friends with Kate, who's better off: her factory-manager father has disappeared (gone to America, as only Kate knows), and she lives with her stepmother and step-grandfather on a farm where food is still available--food she shares with Eamonn's family. Still, the hungry are many and Dad has his pride--he forbids Eamonn to accept help, even when the baby is starving. Dad, too, dies, of typhoid; Kate's father secretly sends her money for a first-class ticket to join him, but she has learned to value her new family and gives the money to Eamonn for his family's passage to America. Smoothly written and well plotted to dramatize one of the sorrier sources of the age-old Irish resentment of the English, an engrossing story that brings its courageous characters and distant setting vividly to life.