The Girl Who Was Me Is Gone

Written by Michael Brown
Review by Gail M. Murray

Brown, a former film- and screenwriter, has created a vivid, electric, action-packed novel. He exposes a little-known period of 17th-century Irish history: when Oliver Cromwell invaded Ireland, confiscating property, killing thousands, and sending thousands of Irish to a half-life as indentured servants in the colonies, including Jamestown, Virginia.

Our heroine, Nora O’Lalor, escapes Dublin, the plague, and British capture only to be shackled in iron manacles aboard the Dutch frigate Goede Hoop, crammed into a deplorable, filthy, rat-infested hold with feces, urine and vomit dripping on her from bunks above. Like many of the 300 aboard, her brother dies of dysentery. Sold to a wealthy plantation owner and Assemblyman, Gerald Knox, as a bookkeeper, her life starts to look up until Powhatan Indians attack and burn his mansion, and kidnap and viciously rape Nora.

Through Nora we experience the horrors these indentured servants endured. Mr. Nolan, the Irish driver, explains to her: “I think you’d better understand this. Mr. Knox owns you—owns you—for the entire time of your indenture. You are his property. He can beat you, whip you, brand you, or even bed you. And if you fight him, he can even have you hung—all legally.”

Brown builds suspense as the disfigured Captain Brice, obsessed with revenge—Nora having shot away half his face while helping her friend Anne escape his clutches—has been assigned to man the blockade of Jamestown.

With graphic, visceral scenes of murder, whipping and several rapes, this novel is not for the faint of heart. Throughout all her trials, Nora’s courage, ingenuity, and feisty spirit keep the novel from becoming too dark. Brown leaves the reader with a hopeful, satisfying ending and a new beginning for our heroine, Nora.