The Flight of the Wretched: A Journey to the New World

Written by Michael E. McCarthy
Review by Jo Ann Butler

Ireland in the 1830s is under unthinkable stress. Already divided into hostile groups – upper and lower class, Protestant and Catholic – thousands of Irish are fleeing their homes. Then the Great Hunger strikes, and potatoes, that vital crop relied on by most Irish families, are attacked by fungus and rot. Starvation spreads across the country.

A barroom brawl in County Clare leaves a British soldier dead and Conor Meighan on the run. He lies his way onto a ship headed for America. On board he is assigned to guard Kathleen Grady, also fleeing a life grown intolerable. The two are wed by the captain before they land in New York City. There they are engaged by another Irish immigrant to help her travel the Erie Canal to Upper Canada.

The Flight of the Wretched explores the hard choices which led many of our ancestors to new lives in North America, and their even more difficult journeys. Mr. McCarthy spins a clear, well-told story, and through his couple’s eyes we experience some of America’s most compelling history – the Erie Canal, the Underground Railroad, and the immigration experience. Flight of the Wretched is entertaining for both adult and YAs and would make a fine source for anyone wishing to learn more about United States history.