Mysterious Book Report No. 68

There’s gonna be a big party at our house tonight, stop by if you got a chance.  Why are we having a shindig in the middle of a work week, you ask?  Well, no sniggering or guffawing out there . . . but the reason we are throwing a big bash is because it has finally rained in Colorado   Springs.  Not some little old shower for fifteen minutes of thunder and lightning either.  Nope.  It started precipitating just before dawn, about 6 a.m., then continued all day and most of the following night before it quit.  Hallelujah, hallelujah, hallelujah and thanks to old mother nature for the relief.  It’s been parched out here: year-to-date precipitation six inches . . . our normal is fourteen and our reservoirs are only 57 percent full instead of the usual 83 percent.  It’s been so dry out here that every known frog in the state has moved to Minnesota.  It’s been so dry that rattlesnakes have to carry canteens and travel in squads . . . and one of ‘em had better be a doctor. Yessir.  And that’s a fact.

So, this week’s MBR No. 68 is about water.  In this case it’s too much water . . . which caused crop failure and famine in Ireland during the mid to late 1840’s.  A famine of such massive proportions in Western Ireland that, combined with the exportation of foodstuffs and livestock to England by absentee British landlords and the gross evictions of a tenant farmers, it caused mass starvation.  It’s called the Great Famine of 1847 . . . and diaspora of the Irish peoples to Australia, Canada and the United States began.  And so they sold what possessions they had, headed for the nearest part of embarkation, children in hand, old folks and relatives, the sick and the dying all left behind, while those still able-bodied enough begged, borrowed or stole their way onto the aptly named coffin-ships; sail and steam powered side-wheelers, where large numbers of them died of dysentery, typhus, or drowning . . . as many of the ships were lost at sea driving the three-week crossing.

Those of you who, like me, are proud of and interested in the Irish heritage . . . as well as the poor souls not fortunate enough to have been born Irish . . . should get their hands on and read this week’s book.  It’s called Star of the Sea, (Harcourt, pap.2002, $14.00, 401 pages, ISBN 978-0-15-602966-9) by Joseph O’Connor, an Irish writer who lives in Dublin.  A New York Times notable book, it has been widely lauded in Ireland, Britain and the United States.  Star of the Sea is historical fiction at it’s very best, combining meticulous research and attention to period details with a thrilling murder mystery involving a woman with a terrible secret, a bankrupt English lord and a diabolic, unknown killer bent on revenge who stalks the ship full of suffering refugees trying to make it to the promised land.  Whether you’re a dedicated reader or just looking for a great yarn, I cannot recommend this one highly enough . . . it’s that damn good!  One of my best books of the year.

Star of the Sea may require some effort to find.  Audio editions we’re available on Amazon as I wrote this, (9-12-2012) but I’m certain copies are available at your local library through the inter-library loan program.  Make the effort.  You’ll be richly rewarded.

You’ll be rewarded with insight, information and knowledge . . . and modesty too . . .

Don’t forget to get a signed copy of The Neversink Chronicles at Cannie D’s, the Time & the Valleys Museum Store, and now at Peter’s Market in Naponach.

The Whim-Wham Man, a coming of age and murder mystery that takes place in 1940’s Colorado is now out and the reviews are great!  More information next week . . .

Remember, you must read or surrender to ignorance. – Confucious

It was true in 200 B.C. and it’s still true today.  Think about it, and have a great week.

–JDM