McGurl does love playing with the past and the present, especially in relation to genealogy. She hones her craft, which is evident with each new book.
The author takes us from the present with Maria in Ireland to the past with Kitty and Michael in the same village.
Maria suffers from doubt and insecurities, a theme which plays a pivotal role in the story. The relationship with her mother is strained and complicated, which has repercussions in her own life. She thinks the lack of maternal instinct is genetic rather than learned behaviour.
She has decided to combine a few days off with her family research. Following the trail of her famous ancestor she ends up in a remote Irish village trying to discover what happened to the mother he left behind.
McGurl has incorporated an important part of Irish history in her story. The potato famine or Great Famine (an Gorta Mór) of Ireland decimated the population. Over a million men, women and children died of starvation and over a million more emigrated to escape the situation in Ireland. It is fair to say that it not only changed the population, it also changed the political climate and set a path of opposition between the English and Irish that still exists today. The Irish started to oppose English Rule in earnest and rise up against the injustices thrust upon them by their English masters.
Maria finds comfort in the present by trying to uncover the secrets of the past and solve a mystery at the same time. It is an emotional read, especially because the scenarios are down to earth and realistic, both the ones in the present and in the past.
McCurl knows how to create the kind of characters readers can relate to. She writes stories that make you ponder and feel for the people you are reading about.
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Read about Kathleen McGurl here.