Charlie McDaniel dies in his home while sipping a cup of tea. His death is neither natural nor expected. The front door crashes open. Strangers shout “Fenian lover” and “Traitor” just before they shoot him. No one deserves such a brutal death, but living in Belfast in 1922 is dangerous for everyone, especially if you’re Catholic. Charlie isn’t, but his wife, Mary-Jane, and their children are, even though they live in a Protestant neighborhood. Thus it is that Mary-Jane reviews how she and her family arrived at this tragic point in their lives – how they met, fell in love, and raised their family in a city divided by politics and religion, where even relatives can be bitterly divided.
Woven throughout the McDaniels’ story is the struggle for Home Rule in Northern Ireland and the role the Great War has on families and the conflict. It encompasses the years 1893 through 1922 and unfolds predominantly from Mary-Jane’s perspective, but also includes the viewpoints of Charlie and their four children, as well as Mary-Jane’s best friend and neighbor, Alice, and her family. Misspellings and missing words and punctuation are found throughout the narrative; towards the end of the tale it becomes a bit repetitive. In spite of these failings, Charlie Mac is a poignant and compelling story, filled with both heartache and fortitude.