Source: Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours
Paperback, 252 pgs
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The Paradise Tree by Elena Marie Vidal recounts the real life of Daniel O’Connor, the author’s great-great-great-grandfather, based upon his own letters and writing and family lore and woven into a work of historical fiction. Daniel O’Connor was a young man during the potato famine in Ireland, and watched as his parents struggled against starvation, political wills, and bigotry. Even as he had dreams of becoming a doctor, laws in the land of his birth forbade his ascension in the profession, despite his skill in setting bones and working as an apprentice with other non-Catholic physicians. After running out of the funds to attend medical school, he set his sights on a new life — one that would take him across the Atlantic into the harsh wilderness of Ontario, Canada, in the late 1880s.
Vidal has crafted a tale based on fact, and although it is fictionalized, the prose has a very non-fiction feel, which leaves readers at a distance from the characters. The factual feel of the novel can fall flat for readers looking to connect with the characters, especially as the years pass along and the interactions are few in dialogue and often seem more like a recounting of the past. Daniel and his family are separated from one another for a long time as he makes his way in a new country and builds his own family, but eventually, he is reunited with some of his kin as they follow him to the new world. Vidal does an excellent job of demonstrating the lifeline that the Catholic faith becomes for the O’Connor family and how it binds them together in the toughest of circumstances.
The Paradise Tree by Elena Marie Vidal is about the perseverance of family and faith in the face of a number of struggles, though at times the prose is a bit too dry. The O’Connor family not only faces hardships in Ireland, but in Ontario as they literally cut out a life for themselves from the wilderness. They must battle against prejudices toward Catholics in both settings and strive to be their own guidance in their faith, as there are few churches close enough to them to tend to their religious needs.
About the Author:
Elena Maria Vidal grew up in the countryside outside of Frederick, Maryland, “fair as the garden of the Lord” as the poet Whittier said of it. As a child she read so many books that her mother had to put restrictions on her hours of reading. During her teenage years, she spent a great deal of her free time writing stories and short novels.
Elena graduated in 1984 from Hood College in Frederick with a BA in Psychology, and in 1985 from the State University of New York at Albany with an MA in Modern European History. In 1986, she joined the Secular Order of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel. Elena taught at the Frederick Visitation Academy and worked as a private tutor as well as teaching children’s etiquette classes. During a trip to Austria in 1995 she visited the tomb of Empress Maria Theresa in the Capuchin crypt in Vienna. Afterwords she decided to finish a novel about Marie-Antoinette she had started writing ten years before but had put aside. In 1997 her first historical novel TRIANON was published by St. Michaels Press. In 2000, the sequel MADAME ROYALE was published, as well as the second edition of TRIANON, by The Neumann Press. Both books quickly found an international following which continues to this day. In 2010, the third edition of TRIANON and the second edition of MADAME ROYALE were released.
In November 2009, THE NIGHT’S DARK SHADE: A NOVEL OF THE CATHARS was published by Mayapple Books. The new historical novel deals with the controversial Albigensian Crusade in thirteenth century France. Elena has been a contributor to Canticle Magazine, Touchstone Magazine, The National Observer, and The American Conservative. In April 2009 she was a speaker at the Eucharistic Convention in Auckland, New Zealand. In August 2010 Elena spoke at The Catholc Writers Conference in Valley Forge, PA. She is a member of the Catholic Writers Guild and the Eastern Shore Writers Association. She currently lives in Maryland with her family. For more information please visit Elena’s website and blog. You can also connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads.
23rd book for 2014 European Reading Challenge; (Set in Ireland)
33rd book for 2014 Historical Fiction Reading Challenge.
65th book for 2014 New Author Reading Challenge.
3rd book for the Ireland Reading Challenge.