Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Ellis Island by Kate Kerrigan

I'm part of the TLC book tour for Kate Kerrigan's City of Hope today, but first I decided to dive into it's prequel, Ellis Island.

Ellie has loved John almost since the day she met him. When they finally came of age, they married and started a life together. Times were hard and their country was at war, but they were confident it would all work out in the end. Then John was shot. His hip was shattered and without surgery it's possible he would never walk again. Ellie takes a drastic step and travels to America where she's hired on as a maid in the Adams home. Things in America are so different from the life she's always known, and Ellie misses her husband fiercely. Her goal was to stay for just one year, earning enough for John's surgery and then returning home. But things don't quite work out the way she'd planned.

The story takes place between 1908 and 1924-ish. It touches on - amongst many things - the war in Ireland and the resulting Home Rule (the agreement that gave ruling power of the majority of Ireland back to Ireland - if you're a Downton Abbey fan you'll recall arguments about Irish Home Rule between the Earl of Grantham and his new son-in-law, Tom Branson). This is the movement that John is fighting for in Ellis Island.

Ellie is raised in a household that really shows no affection at all, so it seems fortunate that John and his adoptive parents come into her life when they do. Kerrigan has a real talent for creating heartwarming characters and Maidy and Paud are two exceptional examples. In all honesty, though, all of her characters are wonderful! Even Ellie's mother and father, as cold and untouchable as they are, are so well drawn through Kerrigan's prose!

The favorite, though, is definitely Ellie. By the time she makes it to New York, we really start to learn just how resourceful and strong she is. Every hurdle that's thrown at her is met with admirable resolve. From the beginning, Kerrigan captures Ellie's voice, bringing her to life in such an amazing way. The joys and horrors of her life felt so completely real. What's more, the settings that Ellie moves through are so detailed and vivid that it felt like I was right there alongside her.

Ellis Island is such a wonderfully told story. I stayed up late reading two nights in a row and immediately started City of Hope so that I could continue Ellie's story.

Rating: 5/5

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