Brendan and Padraig, friends since childhood, know little of the world beyond their small village on the coast of Western Ireland. Brendan is content to live in the peaceful shadow of Ben Bulben, but Padraig yearns for justice for his country. Following the siren song of national hero Daniel O’Connell, Padraig leaves behind his family and his betrothed to join the rally for Irish independence in Dublin. But once in Dublin, he quarrels with a Protestant lordling who has enlisted with the East India Company, and finds that a moment’s rashness can change the course of a life.
At home in County Sligo, Brendan is left to care for his friend’s infant daughter. As the months drag on and Padraig never returns, Brendan must make the decision whether to stay in Ireland – where the Great Hunger threatens to destroy the cobbled family he has created – or set off for America and the unknown, traveling so far that Padraig may never find his way home to them again.
When I first picked up No Country, the grandiose language of the book jacket convinced me that the plot would be oversold – but ultimately this epic tome proved to be as far-ranging as the cover promised. This tale reaches from Dublin to Calcutta to New York, melding periods and settings that are seldom seen together between two covers. While the various narrators remain somewhat stereotypical in their characterizations, the broader sense of place, culture, and family is engrossing and genuine. The cadence of the language rings true to its era, and the rich descriptions coax the reader into loving each setting as Home. Be prepared to dive in deep, and drink it in.