The Winds of Morning (Donovan Family Saga)

Written by Gifford MacShane
Review by Linda Harris Sittig

The famine of the 1840s has decimated Ireland, and young Molly O’Brien has replaced her father, working a 16-hour day breaking rocks on the road gang. But even with her constant labor, she cannot even afford bread to bring to her two younger brothers, lying sick in the family’s tiny cottage. Finally, Molly decides there is no other alternative but to offer her body to the first man who will promise her a loaf of bread.

As Molly resolutely stares out at the River Shannon, John Patrick Donovan watches her. He believes she is about to commit suicide. When he approaches Molly, she quickly assures him that she will give her body to him if he can first give her a loaf of bread for her two brothers.

The plot quickly ensues with John Patrick proposing marriage instead. He explains to Molly that his family had entrusted him to travel to County Clare to procure a shipment of oats and is now needed at the family’s store back in Wexford.

As John Patrick takes Molly and her two brothers with him on the return journey to Wexford, they see unspeakable starvation throughout the land, and tragedy strikes their small trio. Although this is a relatively short book, it is well-paced, and the characters are believable. The details concerning the Irish Famine are made real by the descriptive writing. I did have a bit of trouble though, believing a man would marry a poor girl he has just met to save her from starvation. Recommended.