Book Review: The Walking People

This is a first novel by author Mary Beth Keane. I found the story and characters quite engaging.
It was a good read all the way through; but then I was disappointed in the end of the novel. It felt incomplete, unsatisfactory. I wanted something more, some feeling of resolution.

The main characters are a trio of immigrants who come together from Ireland to New York in 1964. Two sisters, Greta and Johanna Cahill who are from a little village in the west of Ireland, and Michael Ward, who is a traveller, one of the “walking people” whose life became entangled with theirs when his mother died at their doorstep when he was a boy. An awkward threesome, they find their feet together in a new world. Johanna and Michael have a baby, which Johanna then abandons for Greta and Michael to raise together as their daughter.

Unlike many Irish immigrants, Greta and Michael are not at all interested in returning to Ireland and spend very little time looking back at the past. They never return home. And yet Greta is haunted by the past and by the web of lies she’s concocted as she’s never told Johanna’s daughter the truth.

The book was rich with detail, both Ireland and New York felt like real, breathing places. Interesting to read a story of modern Irish immigrants. Especially that one of them is a traveller. I’m still mulling over that ending, though.

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