THE DOWRY by Walter Keady


A Novel of Ireland
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Idealistic Irish priest anxious to repopulate his parish hatches a scheme to encourage local youths to get married rather than emigrate.

Inspired by the patriotic exhortations of Eamon De Valera, Father Donovan, new curate of Coshlawn Crann, takes it upon himself to slow the ongoing drain of his country’s best and brightest, lost to economic opportunities abroad. Knowing that the charms of country life are not enough in 1946 to convince his youthful parishioners to be fruitful and multiply, he arranges a village-wide prayer campaign to invoke divine intervention in favor of marriage. Two frisky members of the flock, Brideen Conway and Kieran McDermott, don’t need any convincing, but their path to connubial bliss is thwarted by harsh financial realties. The younger son of prosperous farmer Tom McDermott, Kieran has little chance of inheriting the family farm until his crafty father pits him against his rakish, irresponsible older brother Martin. Whoever can pay off the old man gets the land, but Kieran sees no way to acquire the exorbitant £2,000 required, save by seeking his fortune in England. He’ll have to leave his fiancée behind, possibly for years. That part of the plan appeals to the priest, who nurses a secret crush on the fetching schoolmistress. Father Donovan nonetheless comes up with a complicated scheme to help the sweethearts and marry off several other couples at the same time. Meanwhile, Martin proposes to the homely daughter of a wealthy pub-owner purely to get his hands on her dowry. Soon afterward, he gets cold feet, fakes his own death and runs off to Dublin, returning just in time to make mischief for his fiancée and nearly ruin all of Father Donovan’s behind-the-scenes machinations. It all culminates, naturally, with a wedding. But given its generosity toward the characters, this winning effort from former priest Keady (The Altruist, 2003, etc.) can be forgiven its clichés.

Charming Celtic comedy of manners.

Pub Date: March 20th, 2007
ISBN: 0-312-36191-2
Page count: 224pp
Publisher: Dunne/St. Martin's
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1st, 2006