Valentia McDowell, a young American woman of the mid 1840's, is in search of an adventure, devoted to the idea of finding her Irish roots. Her innocence will soon be tested when she encounters more than she expected.
The story opens with an explosion and fire at tea time, before she begins her trip to the 'old sod.' Is this a preternatural warning? Val is a strong woman, naive in many ways, intent on her obsession of finding her relatives and especially finding the heirloom brooch, which to her represents her heritage. But is this quest more than it appears to be?
This historical adventure is populated with (sometimes) danger, romance of a sort, obsession, and a dollop of that special brand of Irish magic and mysticism.
The original quest although passionately pursued is to some extent supplanted by the plight of the people. The story takes place during the horror of the potato famine. The real story does not begin until after her sea voyage to Ireland -- a ways into the novel. I found this prelude to be interesting, and it helped define the protagonist and the times.
The author goes into a goodly amount of detail about the culture and attitudes and the people. To me, this added flavor not distraction. I understand others may think otherwise. The story is in its detail. Characters are well defined and convincing. Val is empathic.
This is the story of a young woman fixated on finding the brooch, who while searching finds herself. Equally, it is about the Irish people in the time of the famine. Enjoy the novel by embracing both aspects. Reviewed by the author of The Children's Story, About Good and Evil.