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Right Hand Up To God: No More Will Die Paperback – November 24, 2009
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The opening scenes in the Florida Everglades are chilling, frightening, desperate and heroic as our imaginations follow like a camera a young girl and her pregnant mother -- both are fleeing to the mother's sister after the mother has killed an abusive husband/father in an act of survival. The author does not explore this but I have experienced this in Irish women -- an infinity for binding themselves to abusive men, no matter how smart and heroic they themselves are. It's as if their souls are chained to the self-flagellation of their deprived self-esteem, so Croan's women characters have the built-in contradictions that create unforgettable heroines drowning in tragic choices.
Enroute to rescue, the mother gives birth to her baby and dies, leaving her young 11-year-old daughter, Lori, to become the mother to her son, Michael. Lori discovers her mother's sister has not faired any better with her choice of husband -- a drunk and abuser who cannot support them let alone the addition of two children. Yet, the aunt and child persevere in poverty until the aunt also dies, a victim of cancer. Through her aunt's sickness, Lori is her only caregiver, along with a Catholic priest who takes an interest in the family's survival. To thrive and protect her brother, Lori grows into a cunning realist who melts into the wild life of the everglades. It comforts her, and with the life's skills it teaches her, she keeps her promise to look after her baby brother until authorities separate them and place him with a good Catholic family selected by the priest.
On her own, Lori's sole goal is to do whatever she has to do to get her brother back. It gives her a purpose that supercedes her lack of self-esteem because of her degrading upbringing. She makes choices that continually improve her circumstances, until she falls in love with two Australian brothers. She marries the rich one and can once again seek to have her brother with her.
Across the ocean, Lori's mother had another sister who died, and her children were adopted -- the older sister looking after a young brother -- parallels here -- but the sister is killed trying to rescue her brother, Sean, in the IRA rebellion of Belfast. Sean is only 14, but the IRA leader sees his potential and grooms him for leadership and notoriety as a terrorist to further the IRA's aims. The fate of the male cousins, Sean and Michael, reaches across two occeans and eventually intertwines, and Lori uses one to secure the release of the other. Thus the theme of betrayal and redemption reaches its fulfillment. A truly dramatic and gripping read that catapults MJ Croan into the ranks of classic authors. It's a Christmas gift that readers will treasure.
Far away in Belfast, Lori's half brother, Shaun O'Brien, lies gasping beneath his sister's bullet-riddled body. Kelly's death so angers Shaun that he is ripe pickings for Hugh Devlin, an old school I.R.A. man. Little by little, Shaun learns from terrorism's best and his life runs a path of death and destruction, eventually drawing the attention of anti-terrorist officer Peter Doyle.
Meanwhile, Lori finds some happiness beneath the Florida sun in the company of Bruce and Roy, two rich brothers from Australia who seem determined to enjoy life in all of its facets. Unfortunately, a storm casts their luxury yacht into the world of Vigo Tortosa, a drug dealing entrepreneur who will stop at nothing to keep his illegal operation beneath the eyes of the law. In a cruel twist of fate, Shaun is sent to eliminate Lori and Bruce, but something stops him. Lori's face seems achingly familiar.
Lori and her new husband, Bruce MacDonald, find a new life on his father's Australian cattle ranch and Lori is ecstatic when her brother Michael joins them on the station. Michael, however, feels a higher calling and soon joins the seminary, eventually becoming a Roman Catholic priest. His first assignment: Belfast.
In a swirling vortex of violence, Shaun seeks out Peter Doyle, a man who stands for all he is against. Unfortunately, Shaun is wounded in the crossfire and stumbles into a nearby church, coming face to face with the new Father Michael. Aiding and abetting a known fugitive does not sit well with the local authorities and Father Michael is imprisoned in Maize Prison, one of the most horrific and degrading places on Earth.
Lori plays a dangerous game as she tries to free her brother, Michael, calling upon past favors and playing one dangerous player against another. Can one woman triumph against the odds as the growing web of terror closes around her? Or will Michael, like Christ, allow himself to be nailed upon the cross of power so that others might live? Right Hand Up to God will find the reader frantically turning the pages as a tsunami of excitement and intrigue, desperation and terror race headlong toward the tumultuous conclusion.