On an autumn evening in 1846, a death-scented and thick mist came creeping across the fields of Liam Hanley's ancestral farm.
Liam's heart filled with frustration and dread and he pondered the possibility that a curse was involved in what his sharp senses were telling him. Curse or not, death had arrived and it likely wouldn't stop at Liam's farm.
There was a move he could make, to confirm his fears, but he held off. A tiny flicker of hope remained in his mind that his suspicions were off and he was mistaken, but his gut told him otherwise.
As the mist continued on, carrying its foul odor, others who encountered it had the same reaction as Liam. Later that autumn night, it didn't take long before their fears were confirmed.
Most with any sense had suspected, but like Liam, had hoped they were wrong. That night, the crisis could no longer be ignored. It was evident, growing maliciously, right under their noses and beneath their feet.
Life as they knew it was about to change in a bad, bad way and the term "Hard times" was about to take on a shattering new intensity.
A forced journey
Clare had never been Liam's favorite daughter and she was well aware of it. That honor belonged to her elder sister, the one who'd boarded ship four years earlier with her father's brother. They were the first from their area to go. Their plan and purpose being to find work in America and send home the much needed money to add to the family's income.
They were still sorely missed by the whole village and outlying farm-families. No letters from them. No money from them. They'd just left and not returned, and the village had assumed their fate with sadness and continued to honor their memories.
Clare and Seamus (pronounced Shaymus), her younger brother with a knack for being lovable and charismatic yet a perpetual maker of bad decisions, and who shared her position in being less than-favored by Liam, become the new chosen pair, to deliver salvation to the family. They're loaded up with as much money as can be spared, and what necessities they can carry. They'll journey to Cork with their good friend, Pierce, and from there secure passage on a ship bound for America.
Clare is heartbroken and afraid to leave. She's the glue who holds the family together. she cooks the meals. Bathes and mends the tattered clothing of her younger siblings and their emotionally-crippled mother. She teaches the lessons on reading, writing, arithmetic, farming and integrity.
She's the buffer who protects them from Liam's temper and redirects his attention and anger when he's of a mind to punish them.
Clare loves her family, even the members who are unlovable. And, out of love and fear for their welfare in her absence she balks at leaving.
But, like most jealous-hearted people, Liam is a coward and a master of verbal brow-beating. He can wield cruel words with evil meanings like an experienced soldier can wield a sword. When Clare refuses to leave, he lets fly his thoughts toward her, thickly frosted with anger, jealousy, bitterness and hatred. He succeeds in changing Clare's mind and thoughtfully breaks her heart in the process.
In resignation to a future she doesn't want but can't escape, she readies herself for the long journey.
Pierce is a childhood friend whose family is well off, at least by local standards. Their land isn't immune to the disease clutching and scratching at their property and so his father has added him to the small company of wayfarers, with the same hope for all of three of them to arrive safely in the United States and shortly after, begin mailing home their much needed salvation.
Beginning to end
That was just a micro-view of the beginning of this fantastic story. From the first line of the first chapter, this book reads like the Irish-version of an Indiana Jones adventure. It's perfectly balanced with peace and peril, and beneath the adventure is the consistent hum of the reason it's being endured, and why the story is important to be told, and shared and remembered.
There can be much truth in fiction, and in this case, I have to lend loud applause for achieving just that. Academic histories have been historically taught from the perspectives of conquering and controlling (or controlled) societies. In Flight of the Earls, you'll get a big dose of how things really were from Irish adventurers to American.
It's vividly written and evocative. Don't be surprised to feel the rise and fall of waves carrying your ship over rolling hills of ocean waves or feeling the taste and tingle of salty sea-spray misting your skin, or if a compulsive prayer for help erupts in your heart when character experiences danger.
A fair balance
To ensure I don't frighten you away, and have you thinking this is a long story of a sad and depressing journey, hold up! For as much danger and peril the author poured into this, he blended it heavily with smiles, achievements and victories.
Although I follow his blog, this was my first time to read the book-work of author Michael K. Reynolds and I gotta tell ya ... WOW!!!!! This guy's work is dazzling to the senses and that's still not describing the credit it's due.
His adept story-crafting placed him immediately on my favorite author's list. You can learn more about the author and his other books via his website at michaelkreynolds.com. There he'll keep you updated on the latest news of his books and public speaking events, and he writes a mean blog too.
I was nearly glued to this story. I did have to stop now and then for coffee-refills, bathroom and leg-stretch breaks, but other than that, I had my eyes glued to this story from start to finish. At the end, I was almost disappointed to run out of chapters, but I got over it quickly because there isn't just one but there are TWO Sequels to continue with. (Woohoo!!!)
This isn't a novella. It's a chunky, thrill-packed, full-blown novel and you're gonna get your money's worth when you buy it. If you've got a choice between spending your coin on an expensive dinner out, or buying this book for yourself and maybe a couple copies for friends ... do yourself a favor, stay home, invite your friends over for pizza and get the books!
It has no adult content. Not even a smidgen of foul language, so I'm uber-happy to say it's a safe read that I highly recommend for young adults and up!
After you get it, please drop me a line after your sure-to-ensue reading marathon, and let me know how much you loved it.
That's it for this one!
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