Cinders Over the Junction

Book One of an Irish-American Epic

Fiction - Historical - Event/Era
263 Pages
Reviewed on 06/24/2012
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Author Biography

J.P. Kenna grew up in northeastern New Jersey, received a B.A. in history from the University of Maine in 1967, and has spent the remaining years mainly in the Puget Sound region; with shorter periods in southeast Alaska and the Palouse region of Washington state. Besides three years in the Coast Guard, jobs have included commercial fishing, three years as engine-room oiler on the Washington State Ferries and ten years in track maintenance for the BNSF Railway. In between have been shorter stints as farm laborer, steamboat and locomotive fireman, tugboat crewman, rural mail carrier and, most recently, school bus driver.

    Book Review

Reviewed by Lee Ashford for Readers' Favorite

“Cinders Over the Junction” by J.P. Kenna is an intimate tale of a family’s history, from the mass exodus of Irish emigrants during the potato famine of the 1840’s to the attack on the Twin Towers in 2001. The story begins with a chance meeting between Michael and Margaret in 1921, then leaps to Margaret’s 100th birthday celebration in 2001, surrounded by many of her descendants, then moves once again to the post-Civil War era, where most of the story occurs. I felt a part of the family during their good times and bad ones as well. I laughed, I cried, I empathized, and at times I wanted to hold their hands and give them a hug. What could possibly have happened to this family to precipitate such a response in me?

I was completely involved in this story, from the beginning to the end. Many historical aspects of the story were fascinating, although I found it ironic that while life was getting better from the 1860’s to 2001, in many respects they felt it was getting worse. I was also struck by myriad economic and political similarities between then and now. But the heart and soul of this story is the people who lived it. Along with the many Irish immigrants, there was a plethora of recently emancipated slaves to compete for jobs, allowing the so-called Robber Barons to slash wages and ignore unsafe working conditions. My review of this epic historical fiction does not do justice to how deeply it affected me. I could not recommend it any more strongly. This is a book you will be glad you read.

Alice D.

"Cinders Over the Junction" is the story of the men who built the railroads in New Jersey that connect the New Jersey shore west to Philadelphia,and north to New York, in those years following 1870's. More than that, "Cinders Over the Junction" tells of the Scanlon family of Riverpoint (aka Rahway), New Jersey. Immigrants from Ireland, hoping for a better life, the men come up against the wealth of Jay Gould and other railroad financiers of that tumultuous time when Grant was President, the gap between the haves and have-nots was great, Eugene Debs was re-elected City Clerk of Terre Haute, and Indiana and the Molly Maguires were taking a stand against unfair mining conditions as the Pinkerton Agency chased them down. But the Scanlons are at the center of this story that covers several decades. Mike Scanlon and much younger Margaret Rohrbach marry in 1921. Margaret celebrates her 100th birthday with family one day before the 2001 World Trade Center disaster. Margaret's granddaughter Kathleen recalls old shore railroad tracks that no longer exist. Decades before that, Mike's parents took over the old Wolcott homestead in Riverpoint and created a family of New Jersey railroad workers.

"Cinders Over the Junction" is a well-written story that ties a family's story to the building of New Jersey railroads over inland routes and over the inlets and bays of the Atlantic Ocean. The many photographs from that distant past, maps and pen and ink illustrations add to the book's historical appeal.The Scanlon family members and their histories add significantly to the basic story that tells of a time in history with issues that sound similar to those of our present times. "Cinders Over the Junction" is a historical novel that should be in libraries everywhere as well as in the hands of enlightened readers. It tells a lasting story that many other than New Jersey residents should know.

Anne B.

"Cinders Over the Junction" by JP Kenna is a tribute to Irish immigrants. Kenna introduces readers to the Scanlon family. Mike Scanlon and Margaret Rohrbach met in 1921. He was twenty years her senior but that didn’t stop their love. This tale focuses on their limb of the family tree. Our tale swiftly moves back and forth through time to Sept. 2001, and to the New Jersey shore. The family is preparing for Grandma Margaret’s 100th birthday. Margaret contentedly sings hymns and insisted on cooking her own meal while her son Frank and grandson Michael sit on the porch and granddaughter Kathleen makes sure everything else is ready. Once again there is a shift in time and readers journey back to the 1870s and 1880s, in Riverport, New Jersey.

J.P. Kenna has thoughtfully provided readers with a family tree at the beginning of the book. Scattered throughout the book the reader will find some incredible photographs of horse drawn carriages, houses and businesses; there are also ink sketches. As I mentioned earlier there are several time shifts. It was very easy to fall in love with the Scanlon’s. They are the epitome of the hard working Irish families many of which helped to lay the rails. The Scanlons were quick to express their opinion on politics. The Scanlons are like most families. They may not always agree but they love each other. This is the first book in the 'Cinders Over the Junction series', "I’ll Take You Home Kathleen: An Irish-American Epic".