Library Journal Review
When 14-year-old Grace Coyle's mother hacks off her daughter's long hair, Grace cannot imagine what is in store for her over the next five years. Cast from her home and urged to disguise herself as a boy in order to survive the looming Irish famine, Grace finds her prospects going from bad to worse when her tag-along younger brother Colly is snatched away by a roaring river. She does her best, joining a cattle drive, then pounding out long hours as part of a motley road crew, but misery and danger follow her every turn. The voice of Colly is ever-present, poking her with riddles and warnings and nearly driving her mad. Lynch's (The Black Snow) prose is unduly complicated at first. The writing becomes more direct and lyrical toward the middle, then degenerates to stream-of-consciousness as Grace nearly succumbs to hunger. Readers who enjoy a challenge and a smattering of Gaelic will be enthralled, as long as their tolerance for violence and gritty language is also high. VERDICT Similar in theme and tone to Laird Hunt's Neverhome but set during the Irish potato famine instead of the American Civil War, this novel is bleak and unsparing yet often mesmerizing.-Christine Perkins, Whatcom Cty. Lib. Syst., Bellingham, WA © Copyright 2017. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Publishers Weekly Review
Lynch's (Red Sky in Morning) wonderful third novel follows a teenage girl through impoverished Ireland at the height of the Great Famine. Grace Coyle is 14 in 1844, when her mother dresses her as a boy and sends her off to find work to save herself and her destitute family. Grace travels with her 12-year-old brother, Colly, south from Urris Hills. Before they reach Donegal, Colly dies, but his ghost continues to accompany Grace, alerting her to dangers that prove far more plentiful than food or employment. Mistaken for a hireling named Tim, Grace finds work on a cattle drive and a road-building project. She then ends up an itinerant drifter alongside one-armed John Bart. What John and Grace cannot earn, they steal; the ghost of a woman killed during a botched robbery also becomes Grace's traveling companion. Grace eventually makes her way to Limerick before heading home, persisting even when she loses the ability to speak. In Gaelic-lilted poetic prose, Lynch evokes nearly five years of misery: the Samhain (end-of-harvest festival) after flooding destroys the harvest, wintry deprivation, endless days on nameless roads, starvation, and desperation. Heart-wrenching images include Grace's pregnant mother dragging Grace to the killing stump to chop off her hair, Grace eating stolen seed potatoes, and much worse. Lynch's powerful, inventive language intensifies the poignancy of the woe that characterizes this world of have-nothings struggling to survive. (July) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
Booklist Review
In celebrated Irish novelist Lynch's (The Black Snow, 2015) latest tale, Grace is harshly thrust out into the world by her mother, who can think of no other way to protect her blossoming 14-year-old. Now, Grace must rapidly learn both physical and mental survival skills to endure in nineteenth-century, famine-plagued Ireland. Joined by her younger brother, Colly, she adopts varying personas to suit the requirements of the times and places she visits. Grace initially disguises herself as a boy to travel more safely, and she scavenges, hustles, and steals to make it from one day to the next in a world grown weary of want and need. As her hardscrabble odyssey continues, she begins to develop in unexpected ways, her eyes opening to both ruthless reality and limitless possibilities. Growing into womanhood as a wanderer, Grace rises above cruel circumstances to control her own destiny in remarkably surprising directions, casting new light on this grim and pivotal era in Irish history.--Flanagan, Margaret Copyright 2017 Booklist