“Children, I said to her. For the first little while, they not exactly human, you don't find?”
Nalo Hopkinson

Saturday, March 31, 2012

52 Poems and Short Stories: Liam O' Flaherty

Liam O'Flaherty (1896-1984) wrote perceptive novels and short stories about the Irish peoples' struggles with life.

In addition to 52 Poems and Short Stories this post is also for Irish Short Stories hosted by The Reading Life.  The story can be found in Classic Irish Short Stories Edited by Frank O'Conner.

"Going to Exile" is set in the late 19th or early 20th century on the Irish island of Inverara.  Micheal and Mary Feeny are forced by poverty to leave their island home and emigrate to Boston, Massachusetts where they plan to work to improve their financial situation.

The day before the Feeney siblings leave home friends and neighbors gather together for an all night party.  Their parents are heartbroken because they don't know if they will ever see their grandchildren or their children again.  Michael and Mary are young,  afraid, and excited to be leaving their family, friends, and the only home they have ever known. 

I can't help but wonder what happened to Michael and Mary after going through Ellis Island.  Did they ever see  any of their family again?  Did they keep in contact?  Did they ever go home again?  Did Boston turn out to be what they expected?  

Boston was probably a mixed experience.  As likely as not, Michael and Mary worked long hours and lived in crowded conditions. The Irish and Blacks were disparaged and competed with one another for the lowest paying jobs.  Somehow they stayed strong and over time prevailed.  Their descendants now live a higher quality of life.

"Going Into Exile" makes me think my ancestor who survived the horror of the middle passage with their ability to procreate intact.  How did he or she do it?   Sometimes there are some amazing happenings in the world.

Here some other O'Flaherty stories: "The Sniper," "Three Lambs." 

Be good to yourself or I'm gonna talk about you.

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