The Making of an Irish-American Woman in 19th-Century New York

Fiction - Cultural
330 Pages
Reviewed on 04/02/2011
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    Book Review

Reviewed by Rita G. for Readers' Favorite

Norah McCabe was an Irish immigrant in New York in the mid-1850's. As a child she faced hunger and poverty. As an adult she was determined never to be hungry again.

The McCabe family migrated to the United States during the famine in Ireland. Their journey to New York was a harsh one. They were glad to be in a country where they were free. Life in New York was very different than the one they had left. They were grateful for their new life; yet they missed the rolling green hills covered with heather in Ireland. The McCabes were a close knit family...loving, supportive and strong. Mam and Da worked hard so that their children could have a better life. Mam sewed for the wealthy, and Da played the fiddle to entertain the customers at taverns. Norah was a woman born before her time. She was an independent, self-thinker and was determined to fit in. The upper society of New York looked down on the Irish, but Norah was determined no one would ever look down on her.

Throughout this tale we meet several unforgettable Irish-American characters. Today we would call Norah a member of women’s lib or a radical. The people considered her a radical. She fought against discrimination and hostility, and for women’s rights and freedom for Ireland.

Norah is a beautiful story. It will stay with you long after you close the cover. In this tale we watch as Norah wants to hide her Irish heritage rather than embrace it. Norah did not realize that our heritage is part of what makes us who we are. My husband’s family is Irish. His great-grandfather was a stow-away on a ship. When he arrived in New York he worked and saved so that he could bring his brothers to the land of the free. To this day the family is proud of their heritage and embraces it.

While Norah is the main focus of this tale, there are many twists and turns that keep the reader turning the pages. There is deception, murder, mystery and a bit of romance. Cynthia G. Neale is a master at characterization. I felt as if I knew Norah personally. I cheered for her as she came to respect her heritage. If I could give this book higher than 5 stars I would. This is an excellent read that you won’t want to miss.