Life’s Purgatory

Written by M.D. Connolly
Review by Steve Donoghue

Jonty Kenny, the main character of M. D. Connolly’s sprawling family drama, faces the same institutional prejudices and economic hardships facing countless other family men in 19th- century Ireland, and his struggles and the struggles and dreams of his family form the central drama in Life’s Purgatory, the second volume in Connolly’s ongoing narrative of the Kenny family in the Old World and the New.

Despite the book’s grim-sounding title, the story here isn’t all unrelieved suffering and despair; Connolly has a dark and largely desperate tale to tell, yes, but he’s a natural storyteller with an extremely sharp sense of dramatic pacing – there are plenty of action sequences, plenty of vivid descriptive passages (especially those involving the Native Americans encountered on the American frontier), and a good deal of welcome humor. Unfortunately for the patient reader, there are also plenty of typographical errors in this present printing – punctuation missing, names not capitalized, and the whole thing right-justified like some kind of huge expense account. But Connolly’s family saga is so strongly conceived that it overcomes even such stumbling blocks and presents readers with an absorbing story they’ll be eager to see continued in the next volume