5.0 out of 5 stars A Sweeping Family Saga of Betrayal and Redemption, December 5, 2010
This review is from: Right Hand Up To God: No More Will Die (Paperback)
Far-reaching settings around the world are the backdrop for this dramatic story of an Irish family split by tragedy and history. Though "The Thorn Birds" by Colleen McCullough and "Cane and Abel" by Jeffery Archer were the author's inspiration for writing this epic tale, M.J. Croan has found his own strong voice and pace.
The opening scenes in the Florida Everglades are chilling, frightening, desperate and heroic as our imaginations follow like a camera a young girl and her pregnant mother -- both are fleeing to the mother's sister after the mother has killed an abusive husband/father in an act of survival. The author does not explore this but I have experienced this in Irish women -- an infinity for binding themselves to abusive men, no matter how smart and heroic they themselves are. It's as if their souls are chained to the self-flagellation of their deprived self-esteem, so Croan's women characters have the built-in contradictions that create unforgettable heroines drowning in tragic choices.
Enroute to rescue, the mother gives birth to her baby and dies, leaving her young 11-year-old daughter, Lori, to become the mother to her son, Michael. Lori discovers her mother's sister has not faired any better with her choice of husband -- a drunk and abuser who cannot support them let alone the addition of two children. Yet, the aunt and child persevere in poverty until the aunt also dies, a victim of cancer. Through her aunt's sickness, Lori is her only caregiver, along with a Catholic priest who takes an interest in the family's survival. To thrive and protect her brother, Lori grows into a cunning realist who melts into the wild life of the everglades. It comforts her, and with the life's skills it teaches her, she keeps her promise to look after her baby brother until authorities separate them and place him with a good Catholic family selected by the priest.
On her own, Lori's sole goal is to do whatever she has to do to get her brother back. It gives her a purpose that supercedes her lack of self-esteem because of her degrading upbringing. She makes choices that continually improve her circumstances, until she falls in love with two Australian brothers. She marries the rich one and can once again seek to have her brother with her.
Across the ocean, Lori's mother had another sister who died, and her children were adopted -- the older sister looking after a young brother -- parallels here -- but the sister is killed trying to rescue her brother, Sean, in the IRA rebellion of Belfast. Sean is only 14, but the IRA leader sees his potential and grooms him for leadership and notoriety as a terrorist to further the IRA's aims. The fate of the male cousins, Sean and Michael, reaches across two occeans and eventually intertwines, and Lori uses one to secure the release of the other. Thus the theme of betrayal and redemption reaches its fulfillment. A truly dramatic and gripping read that catapults MJ Croan into the ranks of classic authors. It's a Christmas gift that readers will treasure.
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