Ellis Island by Kate Kerrigan

Source: Harper
Paperback, 351 pages
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Ellis Island by Kate Kerrigan is a historical fiction novel set in the 1920s when Ireland is fighting for Home Rule, and Ellie Hogan makes a bold choice to accept a job in New York City to raise the money her husband needs for an operation.  Ellie is not like the other members of her school group; she dreams of fine things and a life outside her little village of Kilmoy.  Her childhood friend, John, and his family become like a surrogate family for her, showing her the kindness she lacks from her own parents who are so insulated that they forget to hug their daughter and encourage her.  Her friendship soon blossoms into love, a childhood love that becomes a motivation for her to impress, to move beyond the bounds of her family.

“I hated insects, but I wanted to feed the blue tit, and I wanted to impress him.  So I kicked back the rock, picked up a wood louse between my thumb and forefinger and carefully placed it into the bird’s open, hungry beak.  As it swallowed it back, I touched the top of its little head with my finger and felt how small and soft and precious it was.  I looked at John and my heart flooded through.  It was the first time I remember sharing love with somebody.”  (page 8)

Young love can be passionate and sometimes it can be ever-lasting.  Because Ellie has finally shared love with someone, she’s able to lock it away inside herself, stoking its growth even when hundreds of miles separate them.  She makes that hard but necessary choice to leave her Irish home to earn the money John needs after he’s injured while part of the Irish Republican Army.  It is this love she turns to when she worries about what lies ahead in a strange country, and it is what she holds onto when she makes frightening decisions that lead her out of servitude into the life of a career woman.  What had been a year commitment soon turns into something much more, but Ellie is ill-prepared for the challenges and temptations before her.

Kerrigan has done her homework, and it shines in the small town feel of Ellie’s Irish home where everyone knows everyone and their business, and where judgments of families’ past actions still haunt the newest generations.  The harsh realities of fighting for independence from British rule are present as John fights for what he believes.  Her trip to NYC and her experiences with Ellis Island and the immigration process feel real, and readers will be just as awestruck by the city as Ellie is.  More than anything, Kerrigan’s novel is about the search for something just over the horizon, obtaining it, and bringing it back to the family and friends who need it most.

“Ireland was in my heart, but under my feet was America.” (page 128)

Ellis Island by Kate Kerrigan is an immigrant story that requires the deepest of sacrifices and commitments but the growth Ellie experiences make her a better woman, capable of selfless generosity even when she has so little.  She’s grown into a woman her father and mother can be proud of, even though she didn’t go about the way that they would have preferred.

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 1st book for the Ireland Reading Challenge 2013.




This is my 51st book for the 2013 New Authors Challenge.

Mailbox Monday #137

Mailbox Mondays (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.  This month our host is Life in the Thumb.  Kristi of The Story Siren continues to sponsor her In My Mailbox meme.  Both of these memes allow 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 this week:

From Borders, which is the only local book store in my town and had the best employees who had great recommendations every time I went in; it also was the only store with a good three-to-four shelves of poetry near me and outside the immediate D.C. city:

1.  The Postcard Killers by James Patterson and Liza Marklund, which I bought for my mom’s birthday (good thing she doesn’t read the blog).

2.  Twilight: The Graphic Novel Volume 1 by Stephenie Meyer and adapted by Young Kim

3.  Ellis Island by Kate Kerrigan, which I bought to complete the Ireland Reading Challenge and because I just missed out on the TLC Book Tour.

4.  Ideal Cities by Erika Meitner; yes, this is just one of the books I snagged from the poetry section.

5.  The Broken Word by Adam Foulds

6.  Here, Bullet by Brian Turner

7.  Quilting the Black-Eyed Pea by Nikki Giovanni, which I picked up because I loved her selection of poems in (Hip Hop Speaks to Children (my review)

8.  Ballistics by Billy Collins

9. Falling Up by Shel Silverstein

10. Don't Bump the Glump! by Shel Silverstein

11. Runny Babbit by Shel Silverstein

12. Where the Sidewalk Ends by Shel Silverstein

13. Peter Rabbit's Tale by Beatrix Potter

14. The Lorax by Dr. Seuss; our version says its made with recycled paper.

15. Dr. Seuss's Circus McGurkus 1,2,3! (plush)

From Anna for Wiggles:

16. Winnie the Pooh and Piglet's Book of Opposites

17. Winnie the Pooh All Year Long

18. Adventures of Rusty & Ginger Fox by Tim Ostermeyer

And books that came in the mail for review:

19. The Tree It Was by Sandra Fuhringer

What did you receive this week?