Publication Date: April 20, 2021
In the brilliant society of 1880s America, King Coal fuels fortunes and drives prosperity for the privileged as it also destroys lives and the dreams of the unfortunate. Harry Robinson, coming of age in southwestern Pennsylvania, is the hope of his family for the next generation, expected to ride Gilded Age momentum to the American Dream.
When he meets Niamh, an Irish Catholic woman married to a coal miner, he falls in love for the first time. Niamh’s arranged marriage brought her to America with the hope of giving her brother Patrick opportunities for a better life, and she asks Harry to continue the boy’s education. He agrees, hoping to stay close to Niamh and dreaming about ways to make her his own. When Niamh’s husband beats her, Harry is determined to carry her away, though it means overcoming her religious scruples and the disapproval of his family. But Niamh and her brother disappear.
Sequel to AGNES CANON’S WAR. Or read it as a stand-alone.
An Irish Wife is an excellent example of historical fiction that has the power to illuminate a slice of American history. The poignant story portrays the rise of the coal industry in 1880s Pennsylvania. It juxtaposes a young Irish wife married to a coal worker and a local young man with a stable home and many opportunities. The story is not easy reading, but it touches the soul.
Harry Robinson grew up in southwestern Pennsylvania surrounded by his mother and her many sisters, each with a unique personality. His future is an open book, and Harry gets a college education without a clear goal in mind. A few miles from Harry’s hometown is the coal mining village where Irish immigrant, Niamh, arrives with her younger brother, Patrick. Her new husband, a coal miner, is cold and abusive. Nevertheless, Niamh and Patrick are eager to learn about America and have hope for the future. When Harry and Niamh meet, a tenuous relationship is formed.
An Irish Wife is a strong story, greatly enhanced by rich historical detail and lovely, descriptive writing. Cultural conflicts are realistically demonstrated while allowing the reader to draw their own conclusions. This little slice of history has a much larger message to convey. Readers will benefit from this book.
Deborah Lincoln is the author of the award-winning historical novel AGNES CANON’S WAR and its sequel, AN IRISH WIFE. She specializes in fictional retellings of almost-lost stories from her own family’s past, with characters both well-known and obscure. She began writing at the age of seven and kept at it until someone noticed; became a university librarian in order to be close to both research sources and great stories; and now devotes full time to writing, reading and – addictive passion – exploring her family’s history. She and her husband live on the Oregon Coast.