The road slopes downward to Moveen, past the fisherman’s cottage gone to ruins at Goleen, where a stream slips under the road, down the rock ledges into the sea. Smoke curls from P.J. Roche’s chimney, his mare and filly foal grazing in the field by Goleen. I make left at the bottom of the hill and back the narrow road past the fields and cattle and households of neighbors – Mahanys, Murrays, Keanes, McMahons, and Carmodys, Downses and Carmodys again. A mile from the sea, I’m at the gate I stood all those years ago for the first time, home.
Booking Passage was a selection for our Thursday book club – the author Thomas Lynch, an American poet with Irish ancestry, compiling a collection of essays about finding home in the land of his forefathers.
There were things I enjoyed very much about this book. Lynch is a fine writer. As evidenced above, his lovely descriptions of the Irish landscape and it’s people truly give you a sense of place. I loved the stories of his family, particularly how he met cousin Nora and her brother, and became the heir to his great-great grandfather’s home.
Each chapter is a theme within the larger journey of Lynch’s life, but sometimes these themes don’t connect easily. I get the feeling that the author is still struggling for definition and so takes the easy way out. For instance, he seems to struggle with his Catholicism. Without actually mentioning faith or God or his own beliefs, he brings it down the Priest abuse scandal and Magdalene houses. A true soul-searching would have involved so much more and so I’d rather he’d not included the passages altogether. It just seemed like a cop-out to me.
Lynch also announces his leftist politics as if they were absolute truths. Perhaps that is why he felt the need to side with the Catholic Church denouncers (while still wanting to keep the traditions of his Irish church culture). Everything needs to fit neatly into his secular identity. I found this annoying.
So, I give a thumbs up to half the book and a thumbs down to the other half.
2 1/2 stars (out of 5)
Published in 2005