The Walking People

The Walking People

by Mary Beth Keane

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Overview

Greta Cahill never believed she would leave her village in the west of Ireland until she found herself on a ship bound for New York, along with her sister Johanna and a boy named Michael Ward. Greta discovers that in America she can fall in love, raise her own family, and earn a living.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780547336121
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Publication date: 05/01/2010
Pages: 392
Sales rank: 235,952
Product dimensions: 5.20(w) x 7.90(h) x 1.10(d)

About the Author

The Walking People is her first novel.

Read an Excerpt

1
AT HOME IN BALLYROAN, in the single-story cottage that stood beside the sea, in the bed she shared with her older sister, eight-year-old Greta Cahill woke before dawn to a sound that was not the ocean, was not the animals bawling into the wind, was not a slammed gate, a clanging cowbell, or the rain beating on the gable. The sound was different, it was a first, and to hear it better Greta pushed the layers of blankets away from her shoulders and sat up.
“You’re letting in the cold,” Johanna said into the dark without whispering, and tugged at the blankets Greta had pushed away. As they struggled, a faint whiff of salmon stopped Greta’s hands. She had forgotten that part of last night’s catch was lined up on a shallow tray and resting in the emptied top drawer of the dresser she and Johanna shared. Greta pictured the six flat bodies in a neat row—tails to the back, heads to the front, all split along the backbone and buried in salt. The smell was barely noticeable so far, but Greta knew that in a few more hours the delicate tang of the drying fish would be like an itch inside her nose that could not be scratched. The salt would pull the water from the salmon’s river-logged bodies, and it would be Johanna’s job to drain the brine with Greta looking on and their mother standing behind saying, “Are you watching, Greta? Are you seeing how your sister does it?”
“Christ,” Johanna said, and pressed her face to her pillow. Greta knew what her sister was thinking. Last night, late, after listening to the usual activity at the back door and then in the kitchen, and after following the tsk-tsk of their mother’s slippers as she scurried around the cottage to the other hiding places, Johanna had sat up in bed just as Lily opened their door and said she’d not have any fish in her room, thank you very much.
Holding the tray flat so the salt wouldn’t spill, Lily had set the lantern on the floor, placed the tray in the drawer, and reached over to give Johanna a lug. Smart, fast, her hand fell from the dark space above their bed and caught Johanna square on the cheek. There were salmon in drawers all over the cottage and in the highest cabinet of the press in the hall.
Now Johanna flipped over to her back as Greta worked to identify the sound that had woken her. “There was blood left last time,” Johanna said. “She says they’re all cleaned, but—”
Greta put her hand over Johanna’s mouth and held a finger in the air. “Listen,” she said. Then Johanna heard it too. Greta could tell by the way her sister’s back went rigid and her head lifted from the pillow.
“What is it?” Johanna asked. “A horse and cart,” she answered herself a second later, and jumped out of bed to go to the window. “Coming fast.” It was bouncing violently on the stones and dips in the road, the wood of the cart splintering as it slammed against the iron hitch. For a half second here and there the world went silent, and Greta cringed in expectation of the airborne cart landing with a clatter. The racket grew louder as it came closer, rolling toward their cottage like thunder, like a stampede. The bedroom window didn’t face the road, but Johanna stayed there, hopping from foot to foot on the wood planks of the floor as she peered through the gray-green light. Just as Greta was about to shout for their mother, they heard the crash, an explosion of wood coming to a sudden halt against stone and hard ground, followed by the everyday sound of a horse galloping away.
“Tom,” Greta heard Lily say on the other side of the wall. “Get up.”
Johanna opened the door of their bedroom and the cold of the hall swept into the room just as cruelly as if they’d stepped directly outside.
“You stay where you are,” Big Tom said when he emerged from his bedroom and saw Johanna. “Don’t make me say it twice.” He walked over to her, looked over her head to Greta, who was still in bed, and then to every corner of the room. “And keep that drawer well closed.”
“It’s something to do with the salmon,” Johanna said when he left, still hopping from foot to foot. Greta didn’t understand about the salmon, so she didn’t answer. She suspected that Johanna didn’t understand either but liked to pretend that she did.
In another minute Lily came out, tying the belt of her long cardigan, and told Johanna to either get back under the covers or get dressed. “You too,” she said to Greta. She lit the paraffin lamp in the hall, twisting the knob to raise the wick and make the yellow flame higher. The boys—Jack, Little Tom, and Padraic—were already outside with Big Tom; Greta could hear the low hum of their voices traveling on the heavy air of dawn. As her much older brothers, they existed for Greta as a unit, all roughly the same age—twenty, nineteen, eighteen—all tall, black hair, black stubble on their cheeks by the end of each day. The only thing that kept them from being three identical spokes on the same wheel was Little Tom, who was born with his top lip attached to the bottom of his nose and something wrong with the inside of his mouth.
Greta squinted to find Johanna. “What’s happening? Did Mammy go out too?” She felt for the lump of wool stockings she’d tied and left beside her bed the night before, and then for the navy cardigan that hung alongside Johanna’s at the back of the door. “Johanna?” she said, turning around and stretching her neck toward the shadowed corners of the room. “Are you there?” She felt a draft from the front door opening and closing, and she heard the other doors in the cottage shaking in their frames.
“Well, look it—” Big Tom shouted from outside a moment later. His voice was big, full of tobacco, turf smoke, and crushed seashells whipped up by the wind. “Get inside, girl. Lily! Get this child inside!” Lily had just plunged her hands into the water pail in the kitchen when she heard him and rushed out of the house to catch Johanna, who’d taken off in a run across the yard to the field, where a woman’s body lay in the grass.
“It’s the tinker from yesterday,” Johanna shouted as Lily hooked her around the waist and pulled her back toward the house. “Greta, remember your tinker from yesterday?” Johanna kicked as she was pulled. She put both heels into the dirt and drew tracks.
Greta stood framed in the open cottage door, pulling the sleeves of her cardigan over her hands. It was the kind of day that wouldn’t get any brighter, gray upon gray in every direction. She could feel the dampness on her skin, weighing down her clothes and making her shiver. She put her knuckle in her mouth and began to suck.
“Greta?” Lily said. “Come in now, will you? Like a good girl? Like two good girls, you’ll both wait by the fire.” Lily blessed herself. “Lord to mercy on the poor woman.”
“It’s an awful day to be dead in a field, isn’t it, Mammy?” Johanna said, her breath ragged, the heat of her body coming through her sweater, cutting through the cold and the damp so that Greta could feel it as her sister brushed past, flicking her hair this way and that as she looked back and forth between her mother and the field, where Big Tom had gone down on one knee to lift the woman into his arms.
“I’d say so, love,” Lily sighed. “Greta, take them fingers out of your mouth.”
Ballyroan sat at the very western edge of Ireland. Once, when the book man came to the Cahills’ door selling volumes on all subjects, he’d taken Greta on his knee and told her to find her village on the map he unfolded and unfolded until it was the width of their kitchen table. When she couldn’t do that, he told her to find Connemara. When she couldn’t do that either, he used his finger to find Galway for her and covered the whole west of Ireland in the process. She was surprised to learn that at the end of all that ocean that began at the end of their lane was a piece of land a hundred times the size of Ireland, and that someone over there might be standing at the end of her own lane and looking back toward her.
At the start of the Second World War, the village of Ballyroan consisted of seven families, which came to just over fifty people spread over one square mile. Conch, the closest town, was four miles inland and not a single person lived on the bogland or in the fields that stretched between Conch and Ballyroan, leaving those seven families alone, except when the children went to school or the people from town rode their bicycles out to swim in the sea or for some other equally isolated purpose. Big Tom often said that living in Ballyroan was like living on an island, except better. In every direction was water, but unlike the islands that sat out in the ocean like the backs of whales, Ballyroan had a freshwater river running through it. Not a stream, mind you, but a river. Fast, deep, full to the brim with fish if you knew the right places to look. It was because of the river that the Cahills never had to leave. Not when the Normans came, not when Grainne O’Malley ruled the clans and the seas, not even during the potato blight when the people either fled or turned into shadows.
“Because of this,” Big Tom always said at the end of this familiar speech, and held up his fishing net.
“Put that away, you fool,” Lily said when she saw him at it. Sometimes she would grab it out of his hands, gather it up in her arms until it was as small as she could make it, and carry it out of the kitchen to a hiding place only she and Big Tom knew.
But by 1956, despite centuries of gathering seaweed from the high sea ledges, drying it, giving it to the children to chew or keep for the flower beds, despite generation after generation of the same families driving cattle, footing turf, churning butter, bleeding the fall pig from the ceiling rafter of a dark back room before covering him with salt the size of hailstones and closing him up in his barrel, despite all the narrow headstones sticking out of the fields like milk teeth, five of the seven houses in Ballyroan were abandoned, their windows boarded, their inhabitants gone to England or Australia or Canada or America. Every one of these families said they were certain they’d come back one day, once they had their legs under them, once they’d put aside a little money to bring back home and start again, and when that day came, could they please write the Cahills to take the boards off the windows, light the fire in the kitchen, let the air and sunshine in.
Greta assumed that these families did not have a net like her father did, or they wouldn’t have had to leave. According to the man on the wireless radio, all of Ireland was leaving for England and America, all except the very young and the very old. It seemed a simple thing, a net. Such an ordinary piece of daily life—like a bucket or a spade—and Greta couldn’t see why people wouldn’t just go out and get one.
In the only other house left in Ballyroan lived Mr. Grady. Mr. Grady’s house stood exactly one mile north of the Cahills, and considered together the two houses were like signposts marking where one entered and exited Ballyroan. Big Tom said that no one ever wrote to Mr. Grady, and when Greta asked why, Big Tom said it was because Mr. Grady was a miserable son of a bitch. Lily didn’t like Mr. Grady spoken ill of in the Cahill house. She said it would bring bad luck. Sometimes she included Mr. Grady in the bedtime prayers she said with the girls, and when Big Tom said she should pray for the net and the salmon as long as she was praying for Mr. Grady, she said that would bring bad luck too.

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The Walking People 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 20 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Poignant and beautifully written, Mary Beth Keane's debut novel, The Walking People, captivated me from the first page of the prologue straight through to the bittersweet ending. Keane's prose skillfully captures each setting in the story, whether it is the dying village of Ballyroan on the west coast of Ireland, the Irish gypsy camps of "travelers," or across the ocean in New York and the water tunnels beneath that city. The story spans fifty years and is full of carefully drawn characters. The main focus is on Greta Cahill, whom we meet as an eight year old in Ballyroan. Her family and life there are vividly portrayed, especially her relationship with Johanna, her older sister. In Ireland we are also introduced to Michael Ward, from a gypsy camp, one of the "walking people." Greta, Johanna and Michael travel across the sea together to America in hopes of a better life. There they build family, make choices and share secrets that will affect them throughout their lives. The Walking People is a wonderful book that I highly recommend
bookchickdi More than 1 year ago
Like Brooklyn by Colm Toibin,The Walking People, the debut novel from Mary Beth Keane, deals with the story of Irish immigrants. Whereas Brooklyn recounted a few years in the life of Irish immigrant Eilis Lacey, The Walking People looks at the total life experience of Michael and Greta Ward, who came to New York City in the early 1960's. The prologue of the book opens in 2007, as we watch the last day at work for Michael Ward. He has been a sandhog, digging tunnels underground in New York City for 35 years. It has been a physically difficult job, he has suffered hearing loss, and was nearly killed in a bad accident years ago. Now it is loss of memory that he is battling. The book begins in 1956, in Ballyroan, Ireland, a rural area bordering a river that has lost much of its population over the years. The Cahill family struggles to earn a meager living, and to avoid starvation, father James Cahill and his three sons illegally catch and sell salmon from the river. Johanna and Greta Cahill are the sisters. Johanna is anxious to get to a bigger city to live, and eventually sets her sights on going to New York City when she meets a woman visiting Ballyroan from New York. Greta is as shy as Johanna is determined, but eventually they make the trip overseas with Michael Ward, a young man who is a traveller, also known as gypsies. The book started slow for me, recounting too much of their life in Ireland. While I did find the description of Irish life interesting, it went on too long for my taste. The book sparks to life when the three arrived in New York City and began to build their lives. The author took great care in crafting characters that the reader cares about, particularly Greta. Keane's vividly describes Greta as looking like a goose- "Lily noticed Greta peering over at her, peering with that look she had so often, her features drawn together in a clump at the center of her face, her neck stuck out ahead of the rest of her body. Greta the Goose, as children often called her". It's a strong visual that perfectly places Greta's character in the reader's mind. She clearly did a great deal of research on the lives that immigrants led, and her description of life in 1960's New York City fascinated me. I could see all of the places she described in my mind, feel the heat of the summer, smell the ethnic food from the delis. Part III of the book consists of letters that young Greta sends home to her mother, along with letters that Michael sends to his father. It is one of the strongest sections of the book, recounted in the first person, and brings the reader right into the minds of these young immigrants, trying to be strong for their family, but clearly missing them as well. I enjoyed reading of Greta's job at Bloomingdales, and Keane gives the reader an intimate look at how people coming from another land with no money and few skills applicable to city life work to build a life for themselves and their children. There is an aura of suspense as Michael, Greta and Johanna keep a secret from their family, one that is destined to have repercussions for a long time. At its core, this is a story of how people form a family, and the strength that it takes to come to a new country and build a life. Watching Greta grow from a scared little girl to a strong woman, working in a big city and raising a family, touched my heart. Fans of Maeve Binchy and Alice McDermott will enjoy this wonderful read.
mckait on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I have to assume that the author, Mary Beth Kean, comes from a long line fo storytellers. This to me is how The Walking people unfolds. It is the words of a storyteller, laid down in print. This is the best kind of novel. The Walking People is a rich and absorbing story of the Cahill and Ward families. They first came together in 1956 in Ballyroan, Ireland. We are taken through the years with them until 2007. IT is an smooth and soft story of times that are often hard and rough. The important thing that we are always made to remember is that there is love. These people are family in the purest and most impressive of ways. The Cahills, three brothers to sisters and their loving but imperfect parents. The Wards, Michael and his father Dermott, his mother Julia and the rest are travelers, tinkers, always on the move. These families come together and lives begin to change. A history begins to be woven. Through the good times and bad, you will never think of leaving this journey unfinished. You will want to know how their story ends, and when you close the book, it will not truly be over. These good people and their story will stay with you for a long time. Recommended
pdebolt on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
In this debut novel, Mary Beth Keane establishes herself as a writer with real talent. A friend whose opinion on books worth reading I value recommended this book, which I began somewhat reluctantly because the subject matter didn't seem interesting. Living in the south, I am aware of the reputation that travellers have for perpetrating numerous frauds and scams on elderly people. I also didn't have much interest in yet another book on the plight of Irish immigrants. I was very wrong to be dismissive of this book, which quickly pulled me deeply into its plot and characters. Despite a somewhat slow beginning, it was well worth pursuing to its poignant and memorable end.I also highly recommend this book, and look forward to reading more by Mary Beth Keane.
mryan8279 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Two sisters leave their remote Irish home along with a Gypsy boy. Beautiful description of their lives in Ireland. They move to NYC, where the older sister becomes pregnant with the gypsy's child. She heads west after the baby is born, leaving the younger sister to raise the child. Preferred the first half of the book, in Ireland. The main character, Gretchen, isn't entirely likable, with her propensity to hold secrets and to hoard items she steals. Author effectively shows Gretchen and Michael settling into their new lives, letting the secret help divide them from their Irish connections.
stonelaura on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The weathered landscape and tumbledown cottages of the western Irish coast are the perfect setting for an immigration novel of escape and reinvention. Ryan¿s epic story of the Cahill sisters spans the years from 1956 to 2007 and highlights the bonds of family, the grip of home, and the truth of love.
JGoto on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Poignant and beautifully written, Mary Beth Keane¿s debut novel, The Walking People, captivated me from the first page of the prologue straight through to the bittersweet ending. Keane¿s prose skillfully captures each setting in the story, whether it is the dying village of Ballyroan on the west coast of Ireland, the Irish gypsy camps of ¿travelers,¿ or across the ocean in New York and the water tunnels beneath that city. The story spans fifty years and is full of carefully drawn characters. The main focus is on Greta Cahill, whom we meet as an eight year old in Ballyroan. Her family and life there are vividly portrayed, especially her relationship with Johanna, her older sister. In Ireland we are also introduced to Michael Ward, from a gypsy camp, one of the ¿walking people.¿ Greta, Johanna and Michael travel across the sea together to America in hopes of a better life. There they build family, make choices and share secrets that will affect them throughout their lives. The Walking People is a wonderful book that I highly recommend
dudara on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is an impressive debut novel from talented writer Mary Beth Keane. The story moves through the different eras and settings with panache and ease, capturing the moods of the times and the characters perfectly.Ireland in the 1950's was rampant with emmigration and many young people left their homes to seek work and fortune abroad. Gretta and Johanna Cahill, along with Michael Ward leave Ballyroan, a decaying village in the far West of Ireland to find work in New York.Gretta is regarded as a "goose" by her family, a little distracted, but she is sent to America in the company of her more able elder sister. Michael is a member of the travelling community (or one of the Lucht Siúil, or Walking People) who does not want to live the life of a travelling gyspy any further. In Ireland, he would find it hard to live as a settled person, but America offers new opportunities.It is in America that the roles of the Cahill sisters reverse as they make their new lives for themselves. The book moves from the beginning of their lives in the late 1950s through to the end of their working lives in the late 2000s. The secrets that this trio share will echo throughout their entire lives culminating in the final scene of the novel.Although I did not life the initial opening scenes of the novel, I rapidly found my opinion changing as I continued to read. Keane's writing style captivated me and drew me into the lives of her characters. Keane does a magnificent job in capturing different facets of Irish culture. She interweaves the Irish disaspora with the traditional disdain for the travelling community as well as presenting a story of family secrets. An excellent read.
tara35 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Growing up in a tiny hamlet in Ireland in the mid 1950s, Greta Cahill is the sort of girl called a 'goose' by her family, one who should stay close to home within the safely of her family. Greta is only a teenager when her older sister Johanna decides to leave Ireland for New York City in the company of another youth, Michael Ward, a boy who is one of 'the walking people' - an Irish gypsy. Greta finds herself along for the ride to New York. Greta jumps right into her new life, working and finding a place to leave. A turn of events and a crisis leaves Greta without the one person she'd always thought she would have nearby - Johanna. The story then jumps ahead in time, and we rejoin Greta as a working mother and wife. Greta holds a secret from her children, one that she is afraid might destroy the life she has so carefully cultivated. Eventually Greta's children bring together the two worlds she has so successfully kept apart. I really enjoyed reading The Walking People, Mary Beth Keane's debut novel. I loved the narrative, which is traditional, except for the section in which Greta, Johann, and Michael first come to New York. This part is told in letters back and forth to Ireland; the technique really suits this section of the story. I will admit to being a bit confused when reading the prologue of this book which features Michael working his last day as a Sand Hog - men who work underground New York City on a project spanning many years that will help Manhattanites continue to have a supply of water for years to come. While I was fascinated by the work done by the Sand Hogs and researched it a bit, I was a little confused as to why the story began this way instead of with Greta. By the end of the prologue though, things are clear and the reader already knows a bit of how things will turn out for Greta. The turning point of this novel occurs in the middle of the book and while things certainly 'come to a head' if you will at the end of the novel, there is never really a great climactic moment for the reader - though we know there will be for Greta. Having said that, I would certainly recommend this book. It is beautifully written and I found myself completely absorbed by it. I loved the varying settings of the novel and getting to know Greta from her youth through adulthood. It is a family sage for sure, and a wonderful portrayal of the modern Irish immigrant experience in America. Review copy.
bachaney on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Mary Beth Keane's "The Walking People" begins in the 1950s on the Cahill farm in rural Western Ireland. The Cahill family lives a primitive life on their farm, without modern conveniences. When the two youngest Cahill children--Johanna and Greta--decide to emigrate to America after a family tragedy along with Michael, a traveler who has settled in with the family, their lives begin to change in ways they never would have imagined possible. The novel traces their epic journey from Ireland to New York, and their unexpected lives as the unfold. This novel was excellent. It traces the lives of its main characters over a 50 year time span and does a wonderful job following their differing emotions as they adapt to life in America, start a family and age. The story gives a more detailed account of late immigrant life in America than most other stories I've read. The majority of the story is told from Greta's perspective, as she goes from odd ball daughter in Ireland to lover and mother in America. Her emotional journey is poignant and incredibly engrossing.
bcquinnsmom on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The Walking People starts out in late 1950s Ireland, in the small village of Ballyroan, off the coast of Galway, and finishes in New York City in pretty much the present day. It focuses in on two girls, Johanna and Greta Cahill, and the son of a traveller (tinker, walking person), Michael Ward, whose lives intersect every so often. The local economy in Ireland is horrible -- the Cahill family has to earn a big chunk of its living by poaching and selling salmon from the river. As time goes on, and the girls get older, Johanna and Greta are working in a small B & B a few miles from home where the tourist economy has all but fizzled out. They meet an American woman, who talks with them about America, and Johanna decides that this is where she wants to be. Johanna has always kind of been the risk taker of the two girls and starts making plans to leave the area, just knowing that there's nothing for her in Ireland for the future. At the same time, Michael has decided that perhaps he's not cut out for life as a traveller, and wants to settle down. At this point, Michael and the Cahill girls reunite, and Johanna, infatuated with him, decides that it would be perfect if the two of them emigrated to America. Lily, the girls' mother, realizes that indeed there is no future for the two if they remain in Ireland, and adds Greta to the plan. So off they go to America, arriving in 1963. This takes up half of the book -- and the next half covers what happens to the girls and to Michael once they are in the US. It's not an easy life at all, for any of them. Personally, the parts of the story set in Ireland were the most interesting -- very thorough, with a look not only at place and custom, but at the struggles of the Irish people who lived in these small little villages and towns where the economy was so bad that in the Cahill's situation, they were pretty much one of the last families left in the area. In this setting, the characters were more real, more easy to know, but it seems that once the girls and Michael Ward moved to New York, after a while their character development just kind of fell through the cracks. Then it just became a story, not following through on the first half of the book, where these people seemed more real. Obviously the author couldn't write an epic saga here, but I think that a necessary level of depth is lacking from part IV on. However, I will say that the writing was generally good, the story kept me interested and reading, and that I think that this book will do well, especially among reading group book buyers and people who like more mainstream-type fiction that deals with stories about family ties. I wish the author well, and thank the Amazon Vine progam for allowing me the opportunity to read the book.
Sararush on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Mary Beth Keane titles her debut The Walking People in reference to a class of Irish (also called Travellers or Tinkers) who refuse to settle, but instead roam Ireland for the entirety of their lives. These people experience extreme prejudice from those who are settled. The world of the settled and the traveled combine launching the exposition in this extraordinary novel characterizing the modern Irish Immigrant experience as well as complexity of love within familial relationships. Greta and her sister Joanna are the last inhabitants of an abandoned Irish village. Michael is a traveler desperate to establish roots who settles amongst Greta¿s family. Joanna compels both of them to immigrate to America where Joanna struggles eventually returning to Ireland, and yet Greta comes into her own building a life with Michael. However Greta¿s life is precariously built on one explosive familial secret destined to be revealed. This novel begins with Michael¿s struggle with Alzheimer¿s which begat a slow start. It is required that you slug through the first part of the book to get a handles on the story¿s events. This beginning also negates climatic tension as we more or less figure how the story panned itself out. That said the diligent reader will be rewarded. Keane¿s writing is steady and the story she tells moving. The characterization of Keane¿s subjects is solid with Greta being intensely likable. The Walking People is a worthy read, and Keane is a promising talent.
bookchickdi on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Like Brooklyn by Colm Toibin,The Walking People, the debut novel from Mary Beth Keane, deals with the story of Irish immigrants. Whereas Brooklyn recounted a few years in the life of Irish immigrant Eilis Lacey, The Walking People looks at the total life experience of Michael and Greta Ward, who came to New York City in the early 1960's.The prologue of the book opens in 2007, as we watch the last day at work for Michael Ward. He has been a sandhog, digging tunnels underground in New York City for 35 years. It has been a physically difficult job, he has suffered hearing loss, and was nearly killed in a bad accident years ago. Now it is loss of memory that he is battling.The book begins in 1956, in Ballyroan, Ireland, a rural area bordering a river that has lost much of its population over the years. The Cahill family struggles to earn a meager living, and to avoid starvation, father James Cahill and his three sons illegally catch and sell salmon from the river.Johanna and Greta Cahill are the sisters. Johanna is anxious to get to a bigger city to live, and eventually sets her sights on going to New York City when she meets a woman visiting Ballyroan from New York.Greta is as shy as Johanna is determined, but eventually they make the trip overseas with Michael Ward, a young man who is a traveller, also known as gypsies. The book started slow for me, recounting too much of their life in Ireland. While I did find the description of Irish life interesting, it went on too long for my taste. The book sparks to life when the three arrived in New York City and began to build their lives. The author took great care in crafting characters that the reader cares about, particularly Greta. Keane's vividly describes Greta as looking like a goose- "Lily noticed Greta peering over at her, peering with that look she had so often, her features drawn together in a clump at the center of her face, her neck stuck out ahead of the rest of her body. Greta the Goose, as children often called her". It's a strong visual that perfectly places Greta's character in the reader's mind.She clearly did a great deal of research on the lives that immigrants led, and her description of life in 1960's New York City fascinated me. I could see all of the places she described in my mind, feel the heat of the summer, smell the ethnic food from the delis.Part III of the book consists of letters that young Greta sends home to her mother, along with letters that Michael sends to his father. It is one of the strongest sections of the book, recounted in the first person, and brings the reader right into the minds of these young immigrants, trying to be strong for their family, but clearly missing them as well.I enjoyed reading of Greta's job at Bloomingdales, and Keane gives the reader an intimate look at how people coming from another land with no money and few skills applicable to city life work to build a life for themselves and their children.There is an aura of suspense as Michael, Greta and Johanna keep a secret from their family, one that is destined to have repercussions for a long time. At its core, this is a story of how people form a family, and the strength that it takes to come to a new country and build a life. Watching Greta grow from a scared little girl to a strong woman, working in a big city and raising a family with her husband, touched my heart. It is a wonderful read, and fans of Maeve Binchy and Alice McDermott will enjoy it.
readingrat on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The Walking People is a character-driven story about an Irish couple, Michael and Greta Ward. The story begins in Ireland. Michael, as a boy, first meets Greta Cahill and her family when his nomadic family group (the walking people) camps just down the road from Greta's family farm. Several years later Michael returns to the Cahill farm with thoughts of settling down. When Michael, Greta, and Greta's sister, Joanna, all emigrate to America, their true characters begin to blossom when faced with both liberties and responsibilities of a kind previously unknown to any of them. I particularly enjoyed the way the author unfolded the story of the three young immigrants' first year in New York, which was told primarily through the letters each of them sent back home.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Really enjoyed reading this book. Read it in hardback, now I'm going to begin reading her newest book "Fever" on the Nook. A+++++ job.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Wonderful story where you come invested in the characters. I am a New Yorker who lived in Ireland and married an Irish man so the story hit home. You will not be disappointed.
the-plant-lady More than 1 year ago
This is an excellent novel about current day immigrants to the USA and the struggles they have with adapting to American culture. It is also a story of two sisters and the way their lives evolve over the course of 40+ years. The primary character is Greta, who faces many challenges in her life, and ultimately becomes much stronger through it all. The presentation of the story is great - starting from the present and then slipping back to 1957, and progressing through the years.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Couldn't
ReadersFavorite More than 1 year ago
Reviewed by Lia Simitsiadou for Readers Favorite "The Love Walk" By Amanda Beth is a 15-week devotional with devotions on Corinthians 13:4-8 and focuses on 15 different traits of love. Each devotion is followed by an encouragement, an inspirational prayer and scriptures to meditate on and a verse to be memorized. Additional questions for reflection help deepen this spiritual love walk. The author does not speak theoretically, but offers tangible everyday examples of her walk towards love, which was full of obstacles. She is unafraid to show her weaknesses, as this serves as an example to her readers that the shift towards God and love is a personal process, which is far from easy, but is highly rewarding in the end. The author’s personal story, which is narrated without embellishments, but by presenting the pure truth of her own love walk, is a great example of how God works in our lives if we let Him. Each devotional is preceded by her own struggle to reach the highest levels of godly love, which can serve as a loving encouragement for all who read this book. I felt deeply touched and more certain to find God in my own life. This book comes with my highest recommendation to all those out there who are looking for a way to find pure love, and to those who are looking for God. Just read the book with an open heart, but keep your mind out of the equation. Follow the guidelines and you will find God within you.