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Redemption Falls: A Novel Hardcover – October 9, 2007

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Irish author O'Connor (Star of the Sea) delivers a highly stylized post–Civil War period pastiche centered on Redemption Falls, a tumultuous frontier town in the Mountain Territory (presumably in present day Utah or Montana). Told through the posters, correspondence, poems/songs, newspaper articles and interview transcripts collected in the early 20th century by a university professor (and nephew of one of the book's prominent characters), the narrative follows acting governor James Con O'Keeffe as he feuds with his ravishing wife, Lucia-Cruz McLelland, about the mute 12-year-old drummer boy Con takes in and wants to adopt. The boy, Jeddo Mooney, is in a bad way and unaware that his tenacious older sister, Eliza Duane Mooney, is hiking from war-ravaged Louisiana to find him. (Her journey is its own mini-epic.) Con's past as an English criminal who barely escaped the noose and his behavior as an American politician demonstrate his noble but flawed character, while a chorus of minor voices add texture to a narrative already rich with a medley of languages, dialects and clashing cultural mores. The novel is complex, ambitious and at times difficult (many characters are uneducated, and their journals and letters prove to be occasionally impenetrable). O'Connor succeeds as a ventriloquist who brings to life a wide cross-section of Americana. (Oct.)
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From Booklist

*Starred Review* In this vibrant literary collage, O'Connor illuminates a slice of the Civil War and Reconstruction. The stories of Eliza Mooney and her younger brother, Jeremiah, are intertwined in this enthralling saga with those of General James O'Keefe and his wealthy wife, Lucia, through letters, personal accounts, transcripts, newspaper articles, and miscellany. As the bloody war ends, Eliza—worldly wise beyond her teenage years—sets out on foot from Baton Rouge to find her only remaining kin, a boy who emerges from battle to become the surrogate son of the general, whose failure on the Union battlefield earns him the job of acting governor of an untamed mountain territory. The stories—of O'Keeffe's disreputable past, Lucia's temptation during her husband's absence, Eliza's torturous journey, and the horrors of war witnessed by Jeremiah—are vivid and tumultuous, coursing to a bloody climax. Although Irish immigrant participation in the Civil War is a central theme, O'Connor also shows the rich diversity of a country torn by civil conflict. Leber, Michele

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 458 pages
  • Publisher: Free Press; 1st edition (October 9, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1416553169
  • ISBN-13: 978-1416553168
  • Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 6.4 x 1.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,171,855 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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More About the Author

Joseph O'Connor was born in Dublin. He has written thirteen books, including five previous novels: Cowboys and Indians, Desperadoes, The Salesman, Inishowen and most recently Star of the Sea, which became an international bestseller, winning the Irish Post Award for Literature, an American Library Association Award, France's Prix Millepages and the Prix Madeleine Zepter for European Novel of the Year. His work has been published in twenty-nine languages.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

19 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Bookreporter on November 29, 2007
Format: Hardcover
"A hard history. A tale of war. Then came the act that ennobles this bleak tale, shading it, perhaps, to a love story."

REDEMPTION FALLS is a kaleidoscope of bright and dark pieces that forms a stunning tale. The surprising narrator has assembled memories, letters, transcripts, interviews, old fliers and newspaper clippings to tell the story of General and Mrs. O'Keeffe and a drummer boy who captured their attention. A cacophony of characters screams from the pages, their voices all vying for attention.

Most notable is James (Con) O'Keeffe, who might as well have gained that nickname from his status as a prisoner, self-released (without permission) and thereafter quickly took himself off to America. Sharing center stage with him is his wife, Lucia-Cruz Rodriguez and Ortega McLelland-O'Keeffe, a woman of great beauty, means and talent. She provides strength and support --- often unearned --- to her ungrateful husband. If only she could make him happy.

After service in the army, during which time Con O'Keeffe made a name for himself (although opinions vary widely as to whether good or bad), he wins the very dubious honor of an appointment by President Lincoln as Governor of his new home state. He has taken up residence in Redemption Falls, in the Mountain Territory, an imaginary town served by roads and rails that sometimes become too dangerous to travel. There are some rough people hanging about in the Mountain Territory, and some hard times coming.

Lucia, reunited with her husband after the war, turns to writing poetry as an outlet for her unfulfilled emotions. The man she fell in love with has changed. The General --- or is it Governor now? --- often turns surly, bordering on abusive.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Wayne Winterton on December 28, 2007
Format: Hardcover
This is a story - multiple stories actually, bound by common threads that are not altogether evident in the early chapters. It may be best read at times of quiet when interruptions are rare and the mind has time to gather and ponder - but stick with it! For what will seem at first a series of disjointed vignettes, somehow linked to the enigmatic Eliza Mooney on a cross-country quest to who-knows-where, will expand into an epic tale of many whose lives entwine in post Civil War America.

O'Connor's story provides the reader a vicarious experience of living the frustration and ugliness of when America was at war with itself, and in particular, the desperate times immediately afterward. The book is definitely a cut above with its profuse incorporation of period illustrations, song lyrics, photography, poetry, letters, and language - that may at times seem heavy on the ear - so descriptive it might have been penned by one who lived during those wasted days.

The reader is also rewarded with a surprise twist at the end of its telling - enough to have brought shivers to the spine of this reader - perhaps not unlike those that coursed the body of Eliza Mooney as she set out on foot to walk her long dusty road to begin the telling.
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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful By KatPanama on October 8, 2007
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Over the weekend I devoured Redemption Falls by Joseph O'Connor. Although there is not a unified, authoritative voice (rather a compilation of "contemporary" sources that moves the book along somewhat jerkily), the stories, language, history strikes this reader as authentic, moving and remarkable. A very good read indeed.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Byrne Hourihane on April 11, 2008
Format: Hardcover
Told in the myriad voices of those who bore witness to the events described herein, "Redemption Falls" is at once both historical fiction profiling the Irish experience during and after the American Civil War, and a lugubrious chronicle of the human condition under duress. As a student of the American Civil War, the Emerald Isle's Joseph O' Connor employs the presumed idiom of the period; his characters come to life as they chronicle events. The illiterate and semi-literate seem woefully so. The educated speak to us in the wordy formality of the Victorian period. Visually, O'Connor bolsters his gritty tale by weaving in anachronistic poetry, army recruiting and `wanted' posters; effects that convene a finely tuned `1860s' cadence to Redemption Falls. The author's laborious description of a painting depicting a headdress'd American Indian gives the warrior life. Adroit at writing sentence fragments, O'Connor seamlessly shifts scenes, locations and voices--both fictional and real--from one time frame to another. O'Connor forces readers to savor every crafty word.

Mildly akin to Charles Frazier's melancholy "Cold Mountain," O'Connor's story unfolds in post-Civil War America. Former Irish rebel Cornelius O'Keeffe serves as titular governor of an unnamed western territory, although readers might assume the story is set in Montana. For O'Keeffe's character bears such striking resemblance to the first real-life governor of the Territory of Montana, Thomas Francis Meagher, that it's unlikely the similarity is coincidental. Following commutation of death sentences for perfidy against the noble Crown in Ireland, both Irishmen wind up as prisoners in Van Diemen's Land (Australia, Tasmania)--a life sentence they quickly escape via boat.
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