Sears debuts with a historical novel that traces the journey and experiences of a young Irish immigrant determined to make his way to the American West in search of freedom, security, and sense of purpose.
In September of 1831, 12-year-old Colmcille O’Toole hires on as a cook’s mate and steward on a ship leaving Ireland for the United States. As soon as he steps ashore in New York, he changes his name to Git O’Toole, symbolically beginning his new life. He finds work at the American Hotel, where he meets Chomper, a French-Mandan Indian, whose tribe lives along the Upper Missouri River, a major trading center. A cultural misunderstanding forces Chomper to flee from New York. Git convinces Chomper to take him along, and, together with Jack, the young missionary son of a preacher, they head west to the Missouri. The road is long and fraught with danger, offering readers plenty of adventure. But the heart of this first-person narrative rests in the friendship that develops between Git and Chomper as they find spiritual commonality between the Mandan communion with the natural world and the ancient Irish traditions that rest just below the surface of Git’s religious Catholic beliefs: “We, of the old Irish ways name our moons after trees. Each tree is sacred in a different way and has different powers.” The story itself is interesting, with two rather charming central characters. Much attention is paid to visual and sensual imagery—you can almost smell the streets of early 19th-century New York. Unfortunately, the text is a mess: “I jump awake in the grey-blue down upon hearing Chomper voice”; or “He groans Boy looks at me with a hard nod.” And at least one factual error appears in the early pages: O’Toole, recounting a piece of Irish history, says “our General O’Connor was captured in the uprising of 1898.” That particular uprising took place in 1798.
Once properly edited, the novel’s informative, unique focus should intrigue genre fans.