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The Island of Worthy Boys: A Novel Paperback – October 13, 2015
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“Connie Mayo’s fast-paced novel, The Island of Worthy Boys, transports you to the pungent gritty streets of nineteenth-century Boston where two unlikely delinquent heroes lurk. Fair warning: they will steal your heart. Mayo’s dramatic flair, psychological insight, and mastery of nineteenth-century Boston make for a remarkable debut novel that reads like the work of a seasoned pro. Unforgettable.”
—Katherine Keenum, author of Where the Light Falls
“An accomplished debut novel with intriguing characters and vibrant dialogue, The Island of Worthy Boys takes readers on a fascinating journey through the streets of late-nineteenth-century Boston and into the little-known world of Thompson Island’s Farm School for Indigent Boys. With sparkling descriptions and a well-paced plot, Mayo tells the tale of Charles Wheeler and Aidan Sullivan―two boys on the run―and their escape to the farm school, where secrets abound and the boys’ friendship endures the ultimate test. The Island of Worthy Boys will captivate both fans of Boston history and lovers of historical fiction.”
—Kristen Harnisch, author of The Vintner's Daughter
“A poignant and moving tale of two boys who fall on hard times in nineteenth-century Boston. Hunger and desperation help to forge a bond between the two that is nearly indestructible. When the unthinkable happens, they go into hiding, living in constant fear that the ghosts of their past will return to exact revenge and seek justice. A thoughtful and enlightening story filled with historical appeal and an ending that is both unexpected and satisfying.”
—Tamar Ossowski, author Left
“Mayo renders a historically rich tale that will not only capture readers of historical fiction, but a wider audience for its humanity, compassion, and spirited prose style.”
—Sarah Anne Johnson, author of The Lightkeeper’s Wife
“Connie Hertzberg Mayo has written a wonderful novel about the tensions and rewards of friendship, in all its guises. With her two fascinating protagonists, Charles and Aidan, and her portrait of the extraordinary real-life figure Charles Bradley, head of the Boston Farm School, Mayo has called up a vivid world of delinquents, school life, adventure in the streets, and unexpected mercy in a harsh world. Her book is an engrossing and exciting tale of late-nineteenth-century New England―a marvelous addition to Bostonian literature!”
—Ursula DeYoung, author of Shorecliff
“From the first pages of Connie Mayo’s The Island of Worthy Boys, I found myself caught up in unlikely friendship between Charles Wheeler and Aidan Sullivan, the first a street-wise ruffian, the second a thoughtful, desperate boy, and the things they must do in order to survive. The book is rich with historical details, and the promise of trouble keeps the pages turning. It’s full of heart too.”
—Michelle Hoover, author of The Quickening and Bottomland
“Mayo transports us to nineteenth-century Boston, giving us the street level cacophony of street markets and teeming crowds in a way that offers a refreshing perspective on a beloved urban geography.”
—Tim Weed, author of Will Poole's Island
“Hertzberg Mayo turns all this unusual material into a thrilling and often quite moving narrative about youth and second chances in an age with fewer social safety nets to catch boys like Charles and Aidan. The novel brings an alien world vividly to life.”
—Historical Novel Society
About the Author
Connie Hertzberg Mayo came to Massachusetts to get a literature degree from Tufts University, and never left. She first learned about Thompson Island shortly after graduation and immediately knew it was a great setting for a work of fiction, but it took twenty years and the rise of the Internet to make her feel like she could start researching and writing. She works as a Systems Analyst and lives in southern Massachusetts with her husband, two children, two cats, and her heirloom tomato garden.
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Connie Hertzberg-Mayo’s debut novel The Island of Worthy Boys is such a novel. This book is full of colorful, strong characters that got under my skin and stayed there from the very beginning.
The Island of Worthy Boys is a tale of two young disadvantaged boys, Charles and Aidan, who become partners in crime doing what they can to stay alive on the streets of Boston in 1889. And they do just fine until their wayward adventures take a big turn for the worst, and they know they must leave the city. Calling in a favor from an old friend, the boys manage to get themselves enrolled at the Boston Farm School for boys and escape being shipped to a prison style reform school for delinquents. They make a vow to stay close to each other at the school and keep their secrets secret no matter what.
The Boston Farm School storyline is superb. With a cast of characters who keep the story moving at a smooth pace, the school is a lively hub of activity. It even has a Superintendent that almost anyone would admire. He’s the entire opposite of the school matron (his wife) who’s overly suspicious and not particularly friendly to anyone.
Aidan and Charles are challenged with the rules and structure at the school until they find their feet and become a part of the community. As the months roll on they both learn new things, make friends and seem hopeful and happy. And just as things are looking good for them, their shady past rears its ugly head, and their future is in jeopardy once again.
A very satisfying read. I'm going to recommend this novel to most of my friends (it might be a bit too sophisticated for my YA reader friends).
But although I learned a great deal about the school and its headmaster, Charles Bradley, I was also intrigued by the wonderful, heartfelt story of two boys, Charles and Aidan, who end up at the school. Ms. Mayo is truly an artist when it comes to character development and dialogue, and the plot of this book will not disappoint. I would recommend it enthusiastically to anyone interested in Boston's history, or anyone who simply enjoys a great story, told by one of the best new writers I've read in a long time.