Images © Derek McCulloch and Colleen Doran.
This is a charming and entertaining work of fiction with lots of history in it, focusing on the experience of Irish immigrants coming to New York City. It follows three storylines from three times: the 1870 story of a wife and mother trying to make her way in a harsh city but finding some good friends among fellow immigrants and others, as well as many perils; in 1960 a young man with a guitar arrives dreaming of a career on the stage, and finding little encouragement at first, but eventually a singing partner who helps him in some doors; and in 2010 a rich Irishman comes to the city trying to find out more about some people and music from his own past. As you can imagine, all three storylines eventually entwine and inform each other, but there are plenty of surprises along the way. Crime and criminals, con men and soulful singers, even a few ghosts.
I enjoyed this book, both for its well-told story and wealth of information. My only frustration was with the music. Songs and singing are an important part of the story, and while we have characters singing lyrics, I would love to be able to hear the tunes, or at least see some printed music. Would have made a great postscript.
The art by Colleen Doran is equally appealing. Realistic in some ways, but with characters that are still somewhat idealized, which worked fine for me. My only minor caveat is that there isn’t much movement in the art, it’s like a series of snapshots rather than a film. But the drawing is excellent, and the storytelling works well otherwise. The colors by José Villarrubia are rich and naturalistic, helping to fill out the atmosphere of believability. Well done all around.