Immigrants, vagabonds and rebels cross paths in the bloody wake of the American Civil War.
Irish novelist O’Connor crafts an emotional sequel, of sorts, to his much-lauded previous immigrant fable (Star of the Sea, 2003). In picking up the loose threads from Star of the Sea, some 18 years after the ship arrived in America, the author constructs this fascinating, mercurial historical epic. It begins with a girl, Eliza Mooney, the daughter of nanny Mary Duane from the previous book, who walks, barefoot, clothes in tatters, across the emotionally bankrupt South in search of her wayward brother Jeremiah, known to her as Jeddo. Her journey points her toward Redemption Falls, a cruel and nearly lawless settlement in the heart of the Western frontier. Her passage will cost her dearly, but it brings her into the orbit of dozens of other outlandish primary characters including errant cartographer Allen Winterton, an expressive black slave called Elizabeth Longstreet and a rough-and-tumble Irish outlaw named Johnny Thunders. Though all are gripping in their own way, they ultimately fall under the purview and shadow of James Con O’Keeffe, a flamboyant Irish republican, anarchist and skillful raconteur who has sweet-talked and schemed his way into the governorship of his rural kingdom. O’Connor pieces together the scraps of their lives, employing oral histories, translated letters, poems, daguerreotypes and even wanted posters. The transitions between passages can be jarring, but the richness of the overall effect is undeniable.
A striking Western epic elevated by a Greek chorus of deviant narrators.