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City of Hope by Kate Kerrigan

Source: William Morrow, Harper
Paperback, 400 pages
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City of Hope by Kate Kerrigan is the second novel in the life of Ellie Hogan (if you haven’t read Ellis Island, this review could contain spoilers), a young Irish woman who has traveled to New York City to help save her first love’s mobility and returned home to find her family torn by tragedy.  Beginning in the 1930s, Ellie has settled back into her Irish life without electricity and indoor plumbing, embarking on unconventional business ventures for a woman.  While her family may stand back and allow her to continue with her ambitions, the resentment and angst these businesses bring into their lives simmers beneath the surface.  Ellie is far from the conventional house wife and mother of Ireland, and she knows that she’s the star of her own small town’s gossip, but as long as her life is calm at home, that is all that matters to her.

“However, this morning his blue eyes shone wild with delight.  He looked the same as he had done when I had first fallen in love with him at sixteen.  Fresh and full of the heart of life, like the outdoors — a man made of earth and air.” (page 11 ARC)

While she’s bustling about with her businesses and her life outside the home, the trials of miscarriages and failed births weigh heavily on her and her husband.  Despite the passions she may feel for her husband, they are tainted by his failure to take joy in what she seeks to accomplish and her inability to mourn the losses of her children with her husband at her side.  The wall between them causes fissures in their marriage as they bitingly argue about the little things and the signs of things to come are ignored.  Her three years in New York changed her from the small town girl who wanted merely a husband and family into a woman who wanted the finer things and a better life.

With the lost children spurring her to make the dreams she had in New York a reality in Ireland, Ellie is able to better the lives of the town’s own daughters and wives, prompting these women to rethink their own roles.  Kerrigan takes the time to build up the changes seen in Ellie’s town of Kilmoy, and how those changes are tied to Ellie’s experiences in New York and her own personal devastation at home.  Tragedy strikes her home again, altering Ellie’s course once again and pushing her to run away to America.  In her grief, she reaches out and lifts those around her up, showing them the way to improve themselves, work for their own betterment, and to help others around them.  In many ways, this second book is about redemption and recovery.

City of Hope by Kate Kerrigan is a solid second book in a series, but without having read the first book, readers may find it hard to relate to Ellie’s past and her current situation, particularly her burning desire to run away from Ireland.  However, there are enough hints about the past to guide readers who have picked up the second book.  Ellie is a strong woman who can inspire others to rise above their own poverty and misfortune, but who continues to struggle internally with who she is and wants to be.  Kerrigan’s poise and pacing help readers come to know Ellie as a troubled friend who is still finding her way, even as tragedy strikes and good opportunities present themselves.  There is hope that her journey is nearing a conclusion, and readers will hope that comes with the third book.

About the Author:

Kate Kerrigan is an author living and working in Ireland. Her novels are Recipes for a Perfect Marriage which was shortlisted for Romantic Novel of the Year in 2008 and been translated into 20 languages, The Miracle of Grace, which has been adapted as a film script with funding from the Irish Film Board and Ellis Island, the first of a trilogy which was selected as a TV Book Club Summer Read in Britain and launched in the U.S. with Harper Collins in July 2011. Its sequel City of Hope is published by Pan Macmillan in Britain and scheduled for publication in America by Harper Collins in 2013

This is my 2nd book for the Ireland Reading Challenge 2013.

Mailbox Monday #226

Mailbox Monday (click the icon to check out the new blog) has gone on tour since Marcia at A Girl and Her Books, formerly The Printed Page passed the torch.  June’s host is Dolce Bellezza.

The meme allows bloggers to share what books they receive in the mail or through other means over the past week.

Just be warned that these posts can increase your TBR piles and wish lists.

Here’s what I received:

1.  Waiting to Be Heard by Amanda Knox from my mother.

Amanda Knox spent four years in a foreign prison for a crime she did not commit.

In the fall of 2007, the 20-year-old college coed left Seattle to study abroad in Italy, but her life was shattered when her roommate was murdered in their apartment.

After a controversial trial, Amanda was convicted and imprisoned. But in 2011, an appeals court overturned the decision and vacated the murder charge. Free at last, she returned home to the U.S., where she has remained silent, until now.

Filled with details first recorded in the journals Knox kept while in Italy, Waiting to Be Heard is a remarkable story of innocence, resilience, and courage, and of one young woman’s hard-fought battle to overcome injustice and win the freedom she deserved.

With intelligence, grace, and candor, Amanda Knox tells the full story of her harrowing ordeal in Italy—a labyrinthine nightmare of crime and punishment, innocence and vindication—and of the unwavering support of family and friends who tirelessly worked to help her win her freedom.

2.  Gracianna by Trini Amador for review with Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours in August.

Gracianna is inspired by true events in the life of Trini Amador’s great-grandmother, Gracianna Lasaga. As an adult, Amador was haunted by the vivid memory of finding a loaded German Luger tucked away in a nightstand while wandering his great-grandmother’s home in Southern California. He was only four years old at the time, but the memory remained and he knew he had to explore the story behind the gun.

Decades later, Amador would delve into the remarkable odyssey of his Gracianna’s past, a road that led him to an incredible surprise. In Gracianna, Amador weaves fact and fiction to tell his great-grandmother’s story.

Gracianna bravely sets off to Paris in the early 1940s–on her way to America, she hopes–but is soon swept into the escalation of the war and the Nazi occupation of Paris. After chilling life-and-death struggles, she discovers that her missing sister has surfaced as a laborer in Auschwitz. When she finds an opportunity to fight back against the Nazis to try to free her sister, she takes it–even if it means using lethal force.

3.  Loteria by Mario Alberto Zambrano for review with TLC Book Tours in July.

With her older sister Estrella in the ICU and her father in jail, eleven-year-old Luz Castillo has been taken into the custody of the state. Alone in her room, she retreats behind a wall of silence, writing in her journal and shuffling through a deck of lotería cards. Each of the cards’ colorful images—mermaids, bottles, spiders, death, and stars—sparks a random memory.

Pieced together, these snapshots bring into focus the joy and pain of the young girl’s life, and the events that led to her present situation. But just as the story becomes clear, a breathtaking twist changes everything.

4.  City of Hope by Kate Kerrigan for review from the publisher.

The heartrending and inspiring sequel to Ellis Island, Kate Kerrigan’s City of Hope is an uplifting story of a woman truly ahead of her time

When her beloved husband suddenly dies, young Ellie Hogan decides to leave Ireland and return to New York, where she worked in the 1920s. She hopes that the city will distract her from her anguish. But the Great Depression has rendered the city unrecognizable. Gone are the magic and ambiance that once captured Ellie’s imagination.

Plunging headfirst into a new life, Ellie pours her passion and energy into running a refuge for the homeless. Her calling provides the love, support, and friendship she needs in order to overcome her grief—until, one day, someone Ellie never thought she’d see again steps through her door. It seems that even the vast Atlantic Ocean isn’t enough to keep the tragedies of the past from catching up with her.

5.  Milk and Other Stories by Simon Fruelund, translated by K.E. Semmel for review from the translator.

The 14 stories in this collection display the often quiet, inconspicuous way in which terrible truths and experiences are intimated: the death of a sailboarder makes a widower see deeper into love and loss; a young poet visits his former teacher only to discover he is literally not the person he used to be; a middle-aged man glimpses the terrible humdrum of his third marriage as his son embarks on a new chapter in his life. Conveyed without grandeur or pathos, the revelations in these minimalist stories demonstrate clearly and effectively Fruelund’s gift of subtlety and nuance; like scenes from life, characters’ dramas are played out in brief but brilliant flashes. Ranging across the wide arc of human experience, from the comic to the tragic, each piece explores the complex emotions of the human heart.

What did you receive?