Away: A Novel
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A stunning, evocative novel set in Ireland and Canada, Away traces a family's complex and layered past. The narrative unfolds with shimmering clarity, and takes us from the harsh northern Irish coast in the 1840s to the quarantine stations at Grosse Isle and the barely hospitable land of the Canadian Shield; from the flourishing town of Port Hope to the flooded streets of Montreal; from Ottawa at the time of Confederation to a large-windowed house at the edge of a Great Lake during the present day. Graceful and moving, Away unites the personal and the political as it explores the most private, often darkest corners of our emotions where the things that root us to ourselves endure. Powerful, intricate, lyrical, Away is an unforgettable novel.
The bands of wild rovers, desperate warriors for justice, and heartbroken Irish nationalists that she had concocted as a family for Aidan Lanighan were never still in her mind. They galloped over hills with the wind in their hair or leapt back and forth on the trunks of enormous, floating trees as she had seen men do in logging season in Elzivir Township. They ran by night with the moon on their shoulders, and when they sat at the table and talked – using the new phrases she had learned from Boyle’s paper – they were tense, straight spined, poised for flight.
At first he had not allowed the idea of his mother to enter his mind at all, but, as the day darkened, and the increasing wind set her solitary white apron flapping on a string tied between two saplings, he called her name once and, without waiting for a reply, ran towards the forest and peered into the gloom. Standing entirely still he saw birds dart and chipmunks leap, and when he had remained frozen at attention for some time a female deer sauntered with her fawn across his line of vision not ten yards away.
I could whistle, so I did that for a while, till the guard shouted at me to stop. But I wouldn’t stop. I whistled more and I began to dance and dance until the men came cheering to the bars of their cells. I was beaten once for dancing, but I wouldn’t stop. ” “Did you dance for McGee? ” “I tried. ” “But he never understood it? ” “No, he never understood it. ” During the following two days she would sometimes slip out of the house with warm milk from the cow or a bowl of porridge, but mostly she kept close to the kitchen, not wanting to arouse her brother’s suspicions.
Led by Eileen who looked neither to the left nor the right, Genesis walked calmly up the swaying plank as if she had spent most of her life at sea. Liam spun around, tipped his bowler hat to the crowd, waved, and blew kisses. This was his second-to-last excessive act and, years later, after seasons and seasons of farming, he would talk about it to anyone who would listen. “I turned, I tipped my hat, I blew kisses to the crowd, and we floated her downshore, twenty-five miles to Loughbreeze Beach” – the name he would give to his farm, a part-Gaelic moniker in memory of his father.
In the fancy dining room at night, after Eileen had wandered vaguely away from a scarcely touched supper, the three men discussed her condition. “Captain O’Shaunessy and I believe she’s been visited by ‘the terrible calamity,’ ” Sean told Liam. “She’s fallen in love with a patriot and there’s no cure for it. ” “There’s nothing in it,” said Liam, annoyed. “She’ll be herself in a day or two. ” My grief on the sea, how the waves of it roll. For they heave between me, and the love of my soul, quoted Seamus.