The Paper Man by Billy O’Callaghan

Image of The Paper Man

Author(s): 

Billy O’Callaghan

Release Date: 

May 2, 2023

Publisher/Imprint: 

Godine

Pages: 

248

Buy on Amazon

Reviewed by: 

Claire Fullerton

The Paper Man is a haunting story gorgeously crafted with subtle themes of identity, nationalism, dislocation, lost love, and the price of fame.”

Billy O’Callaghan’s The Paper Man slowly unveils a love story affected by pivotal world events. It weaves a compelling story in two time frames brought together from one man’s search for identity that spans two countries and leaves an impact on multiple generations. The story enthralls on many levels. It’s a deeply human one that takes its inspiration from the life of a celebrated historical figure who suffered the ramifications of the Holocaust.

It is 1980s Cork, Ireland, and 41-year-old Jack Shine’s life is now changed. In the dark, just before sleep, he whispers to his wife as much as to himself, “You think you know yourself. You fill yourself up with what you can, you grab what’s going and hold on. And then something like this happens, and suddenly you’re empty all over again.”

The emptiness Jack refers to concerns the death of his mother when he was age ten. What he knows of himself is that he is well-loved by the relatives who raised him, and that his mother, Rebekah, “had arrived here from Vienna, as vibrant and cosmopolitan a city as any in Europe . . . she’d originally been country born and bred and had kept her preference for silences and slower ways.” Jack understands that his young, Jewish mother had fled Vienna on the cusp of WWII to be out of harm’s way and found safe haven in Cork, with the family of her father’s brother. But because of his age when she died, Jack knows little of Rebekah’s backstory, including the identity of his father. His relatives are equally unaware of the details that led to Jack’s birth, having asked no questions when Rebekah arrived in Cork pregnant  and unable to speak the language.   

Local stevedore Jack lives down the street with his wife and daughter from the house in which he was raised. Now that his original family home is on the market, he clears out its contents and finds “a twine-bound grey cardboard shoebox . . . bearded in dust and probably decades hidden,” in which a series of faded newspaper clippings, love letters, and photographs are neatly preserved. The letters are written in German and addressed to his mother. “The one-sided nature of the letters, especially when considered in total, only raises further questions and deepens the sense of mystery.” What Jack recalls of his mother is that “she is timid, silent to a fault, and easily cowed, the kind to hold herself to smallness in any room.” Although he fears what the shoebox might reveal, something within him must know. Because his nearby father-in-law speaks fluent German, Jack dares to solicit his involvement. And so begins Jack’s search for identity—his father’s, and by extension, his own.

It is the dawn of WWII in 1938 Vienna, and the whole of the region puts their sense of pending doom aside in favor of the last-gasping breath of patriotism, as the Austrian and German soccer teams face off, on the last day the Austrian flag flies in front of 60,000 exuberant fans. The symbolic significance of the match cannot be overstated, when onto the playing field strolls Matthias Sindelar, the Austrian team player everyone has come to see.

Matthias Sindelar is larger than life. Regaled as the finest living soccer player, his moniker, the Paper Man, is aptly given. “When he runs, even at thirty-five, it is like watching a great dancer, that same godly elegance of power, grace, and musicality . . . he glides and slaloms among them . . . every touch, pass and dribble becomes a small glory in and of itself, an exhibition in the purest sense.” An object of Austrian pride, “The press loved him because in everything he did he was pure story. Mozart with a football.”

With all eyes upon him at the last match before the war, Sindelar is unable to resist the opportunity to publicly snub his opponents, and consequently draws the long gaze of the Gestapo when he performs a mocking gesture before a riveted crowd that feels like “a colosseum moment.”

Sindelar, reputably a ladies’ man, has his heart captured by young and innocent Rebekah from the village of Kaumberg. “The mismatch was instantly apparent: at the time of their initial encounter she had only just turned nineteen and was every bit the country innocent . . . The thirteen-year age difference felt like a hurdle impossible to overcome.” As their relationship evolves into something profound, so does tension over Germany’s occupation of Austria, setting the stage for the pair to become star-crossed lovers.

O’Callaghan’s sense of place in The Paper Man’s two time frames is cinematic. The historical accuracy of streets, buildings, and cafés in 1938 Vienna is vivid, and the humble neighborhoods of working-class, 1980s Cork are alive all the way to the waterfront docks.

The author’s knowledge of soccer’s breakneck speed dynamic is displayed with breathtaking minutiae, striking a fine balance between those cheering from the stands and those playing on the field. O’Callaghan’s use of language is the life force of the story. His long sentences are sonorous and poetic; no detail is left unattended in his masterfully fluid prose.

The Paper Man is a haunting story gorgeously crafted with subtle themes of identity, nationalism, dislocation, lost love, and the price of fame. The story informs and intrigues the most discerning reader of literary and historical fiction, and will linger long after its final page.

Claire Fullerton’s most recent novels are Little Tea and multiple award winner, Mourning Dove. Honors include the Independent Book Publishers Book Award Silver Medal for Regional Fiction, the Reader’s Favorite for Southern Fiction Bronze Medal and various other literary awards.

Billy O’Callaghan was born in Cork in 1974, and is the author of four short story collections: In Exile (2008, Mercier Press), In Too Deep (2009, Mercier Press), The Things We Lose, The Things We Leave Behind (2013, New Island Books, winner of a 2013 Bord Gáis Energy Irish Book Award and selected as Cork’s One City, One Book for 2017), and The Boatman (2020, Jonathan Cape and Harper (U.S.A.)), as well as the novels The Dead House (2017, Brandon/O’Brien Press and 2018, Arcade/Skyhorse (USA)), My Coney Island Baby, (2019, Jonathan Cape and Harper (U.S.A.)) and Life Sentences (2021, Jonathan Cape and Godine (U.S.A.)).

His latest novel, The Paper Man, was recently published by Jonathan Cape and Godine in May 2023. Read more about it on the Books page.

Billy is the winner of a Bord Gáis Energy Irish Book Award for the short story, and twice a recipient of the Arts Council of Ireland’s Bursary Award for Literature. Among numerous other honours, his story, The Boatman, was a finalist for the 2016 Costa Short Story Award, and more than a hundred of his stories have appeared or are forthcoming in literary journals and magazines around the world, including: Absinthe: New European Writing, Agni, the Bellevue Literary Review, the Chattahoochee Review, Confrontation, the Fiddlehead, Hayden’s Ferry Review, the Kenyon Review, the Kyoto Journal, the London Magazine, the Los Angeles Review, Narrative, Ploughshares, Salamander, and the Saturday Evening Post.

#bookreview: Be an Angel by Roma Downey

As it appears in the New York Journal of Books:

A beautiful, timeless, and timely collection of inspirational passages to use as a daily touchstone, Roma Downey’s Be an Angel: Devotions to Inspire and Encourage Love and Light Along the Way makes good on its title. It’s lovely in its optimism, succinct in its knowledge, efficient in its compact arrangement, and wonderfully structured for the reader’s convenience.

That actress, producer, and author, Roma Downey is a household name due to her starring role as an angel in the nine-year run of the fantasy/drama television show, Touched by an Angel, which justifies her hand in writing this book; it is her humility to which we’re attracted. In the book’s introduction, the author states her impetus in writing the book: “Over the years, because of my role on TV, people often mistook me for an actual angel.” Realizing the responsibility of her high-profile position, she explains how she rose to the challenge: “Della taught me that if we’re going to be used by God, we need to let go of our expectations and get out of the way.”

The 52 chapters of Be an Angel encourage the book’s use as a daily devotional to ponder in an incremental manner that, once coalesced, will impress as an overall way of being in the world, “bringing light into darkness.”

The chapters are neat and accessible, each beginning with a recognizable, inspirational quote followed compatibly by a short example of Downey’s personal experience to illustrate her point. Her manner is intimate and confessional. Her concerns are universal. Her tales range from anecdotes to transparent first-person narratives. Her settings range from home and hearth to her presence on social media.: “I recently posted this verse to my social media story one morning just after dawn . . . with the rest of the world, I had been watching a terrible international conflict evolve thousands of miles away.”

There are interesting stories in this well-arranged book, and the reader is given a look behind the curtain of a person leading a fascinating life. Downey shares her acquaintances and accomplishments with awe-struck wonder. She roams out into the world to India and returns to us with a message: “In India I encountered a profound oneness with humanity. We all love and lose. We have families and dreams . . . I

learned that we can understand one another’s pain if we open ourselves to it.”

Covering such subjects as hope, faith, gratitude, forgiveness, and grace, Downey suggests with a light hand that the beginning of enduring change might all start with you: “I started looking at what irks me considering what I’d want changed then doing for someone else what I’d want done.” Downey arrives at a conclusion: “We can’t change everything, but we can work toward peace when we change ourselves . . . if we don’t tend to what’s inside, we simply don’t have the bandwidth to be the change on a grander scale.”

Though anchored in Christian doctrine, Be an Angel transcends principle to embrace a larger concept of God. “It’s so essential in our frenetic world to step aside and be with God in stillness.” The author finds God in nature, “Often, I use the shift between activities to experience His presence in nature . . . I return to being not merely doing one more thing.”

The arrangement of this book is user friendly. Be an Angel is both an owner’s manual and a guide.  Beneath each of the 14 general categories, there are three companion stories illustrating Downey’s subject in exemplary form. At the end of each essay is a prompt for the reader’s consideration written as a reflection, and the reader is invited to put what they’ve read into practice.

For dreamers and students, thinkers and searchers, Roma Downey’s Be an Angel is a collection of spellbinding essays that reads like a devotional. Its tone is enlightening and encouraging. It’s a beautiful book you’ll want to keep at your bedside and give to your family and friends.  

Claire Fullerton is a staff reviewer at New York Journal of Books.

Roma Burnett OBE is an actress from Derry, Northern Ireland. For nine seasons she played Monica the angel in the CBS television series Touched by an Angel. She produced the mini-series The Bible for the History Channel and also appeared in it as Mary, mother of Jesus. She has performed on stage with the Abbey Theatre, The National Theatre of Ireland, and has appeared both on and off Broadway. She played the leading role of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis in the Emmy award-winning miniseries A Woman Named Jackie for NBC.

Variety is the Spice of Life by Sally Cronin

I have long been a fan of Sally Cronin’s writing, so it was with great enthusiasm that I read her November 2022 release, Variety is the Spice of Life, whose title is delightfully appropriate for the assembly of poetry and prose that covers a range of topics.

In Ms. Cronin’s author introduction, she states the essence of her book’s intention, “In this latest collection of poetry and short stories I have attempted to capture the beauty and raw power of nature, and the resilience of humans as they face a modern world of change and disruption.” The author does that and more, and the entirety of this book is a breath of fresh air replete with creative nuance.

The book begins with a series of soul-stirring poems—each short, pithy, and inspirational enough to serve as its own existential meditation. In Expeditions we are encouraged to “ignore those who say it’s foolish to try to reach for the stars,” and in Bear Witness, we are asked to consider the plight of the immigrant, “do not look away, bear witness to tragedy, give deepest respect…do not become complacent.” In Lullaby, Ms. Cronin sings the praises of women, by musing on the different voices used to sooth an infant, “but words that mothers sing to babies all around the world loving.”  

#17 in Variety is the Spice of Life reads as a first-person essay, in which the author shares her experience with DNA Ancestral testing. Written in unembellished prose, it’s a beautiful, confessional piece that fittingly precedes the Choka, Origins, in which the author muses on her own genetic line that ends with  powerful impact. In another treatise on family, Face in the Mirror, culminates in the realization, “I’ve morphed into my mother.”

Rounding out the poems is a series titled, A Snapshot from My Garden, and those of us who have followed the author for years know well of the celebrated setting. Ireland is captured in The Colour of Life, and in The Robin—Size Doesn’t Matter, a red robin is declared “the garden’s emperor.” A life span is metaphorically depicted in Blossom, and the series closes with an individual look at bees, butterflies, doves, and cats. 

Ms. Cronin brings her unique voice to eight delightful short stories. Her craft is economic and straight forward, striking an overall tone in a momentum pairing bright language with broad strokes. Her small-town settings are atmospheric and depict character as place, her subjects are humanistic and appeal to animal lovers, nature lovers, and those who applaud a well-deserved sense of cosmic comeuppance.  

In The Neighborhood Watch, a cat has the last word. In The Green Hill an elderly couple’s day out in a windswept, coastal region has a sense of the uncanny, and in On the Run, a frozen foods employee living under an assumed identity sees her turbulent past brought to justice.

Variety is the Spice of Life by Sally Cronin is a well-balanced, uplifting collection of poetry and prose both poignant and entertaining. It’s a thoughtful and satisfying book that casts a light on the best of human nature.

Variety is the Spice of Life is available on Kindle!

The Author, Sally Cronin

Sally Cronin is the author of sixteen books including her memoir Size Matters: Especially when you weigh 330lb first published in 2001. This has been followed by another fifteen books both fiction and non-fiction including multi-genre collections of short stories and poetry.

As an author she understands how important it is to have support in marketing books and offers a number of FREE promotional opportunities on her blog and across her social media. The Smorgasbord Bookshelf My blog is https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com

Foster by Claire Keegan

In emotionally evocative, simplistic language, author Claire Keegan tells the story of a young girl sent to live with rural Irish relatives, while her over-burdened mother is due to have yet another baby. First-time experiences and awkward adjustments give the tentative girl her first taste of self-worth and belonging to a childless couple now aching to share their heart. A story profound in tacit nuance and cultural identity, the poignant ending resonates with an appropriateness both heart-rending and satisfying.

      Claire Keegan is an Irish writer known for her award-winning short stories. Her stories have been published in The New Yorker, Best American Short Stories, Granta, and The Paris Review; and translated into 20 languages.

An international bestseller and one of The Times’ “Top 50 Novels Published in the 21st Century,” Claire Keegan’s piercing contemporary classic Foster is a heartbreaking story of childhood, loss, and love; now released as a standalone book for the first time ever in the US

Book Review: Holding Her Breath by Eimear Ryan

Holding Her Breath: A Novel

Image of Holding Her Breath: A Novel

Author: Eimear Ryan

Release Date: May 17, 2022

Reviewed by: Claire Fullerton As it Appears in the New York Journal of Books

Holding Her Breath is a generational story written in descriptive language with steady pacing. . . . an engaging, sensitive story set in Ireland, sure to resonate with readers far and wide.”

A compelling look at coming-of-age concerns beneath the taboo of generational mental illness, Eimear Ryan’s debut novel, Holding Her Breath, is the story of a young Irish woman coming into her own by pursuing the buried truth of family secrets.

It is modern day Dublin, and overwhelmed university freshman, Beth Crowe, has mishandled her sports scholarship. Once lauded a natural athlete in swimming, Beth remembers, “At one point in her adolescence, she realized that the adults in the club were describing her in nearly supernatural terms: unreal, savage, unbelievable.” Possessed of the discipline of devoting her youth to “getting up at dawn for training, slipping into the water again after school; her world became narrow but deep. It was only when she stopped, abruptly, that she realized how tired she was.”

After her self-imposed sabbatical, she returns with her own practice out of love for the sport.  Ryan pinpoints Beth’s affinity with water: “It feels illicit somehow, being alone in the water. No coach towering over her at the pool’s edge, saying surely she can do better than that. Now she does as she likes. After a hundred laps she feels calm and rejuvenated, her body pinging with the tremors of exercise.”

Now with a focus on psychology, the taciturn Beth is paired in college housing with the gregarious Sadie, who takes her to a campus book event and introduces her to poet and university professor, Justin Kelleher, a class lecturer on the widely acclaimed poet, Benjamin Crowe, who happens to be Beth’s deceased grandfather.

When a relationship grows between Beth and Justin, Beth is optimistic. She “never thought she could be one of those people to whom things actually happen. Every moment of drama or triumph in her life has taken place in the pool and been rendered less impactful for the hours of repetitive practice that preceded it. She is not used to things happening out of the blue.”

An hour away from campus, Beth’s mother Alice lives with her elderly mother Lydia, the widow of Benjamin Crowe. The fame of Benjamin Crowe is the stuff of legend kept under wraps by Lydia, who won’t part with her husband’s coveted archives, nor reveal what she knows of events leading to his death, a mystery that casts a wide shadow upon Beth and Alice, as well as passionate Crowe scholars.

Because Beth is hesitant to pursue the subject with the formidable Lydia, she asks Justin what he knows of rumor surrounding her grandfather’s death. When Justin mentions a never-published Crowe biography by author Julie Conlon-Hayes, he says, “It’s a story among us Crowe scholars. Now, how much is true, I don’t know. She was friends with your grandparents, so she had great access . . . But then Ben died, and Lydia squashed the project.” Continuing, Justin says, “Because of the nature of his death, we are all the time searching his work for clues and explanations. But perhaps we should consider the poems simply on their own merit.”

When Beth asks her mother what she knows of her famous father’s death, Alice skirts the issue of mental illness. “I was told Dad had an illness that made him confused, which in turn made him fall into the sea. I didn’t connect the dots.” On the tight-lipped comportment of Lydia, Alice says, “Her intent was to preserve, as she called it, the honor of the family. She didn’t want anyone poking around in Dad’s memory, and she never spoke publicly about his death.”

Sensing that the mystery at the center of her family lineage would help Beth better understand herself, Beth visits Sadie at her family’s rural home in Portlaoise, and the girls set out on an adventure to visit the elderly Julie Conlon-Hayes at her home in West Cork, in hopes of learning her side of the story concerning the events that led to Benjamin Crowe’s death, which took place in the area.

Stopping cliffside along the road to Julie Conlon-Hayes’ home, Beth “closes her eyes and tries to put herself in her grandfather’s place over thirty years ago. She pictures him barefoot, his toes gripping the earthy edge of the cliff. Crouching, tucking his chin to his chest, pointing his palms to the water. Except it couldn’t have happened like that.”

Holding Her Breath is a generational story written in descriptive language with steady pacing. Author Eimear Ryan captures youth’s perseverance in the search for one’s place in the world, and weaves in mental illness’s nuances while unravelling long guarded family secrets. It’s an engaging, sensitive story set in Ireland, sure to resonate with readers far and wide.   

Buy on Amazon

.

Eimear Ryan’s debut novel Holding Her Breath is published by Penguin Sandycove (Ireland/UK) and Mariner Books (US).

Her short fiction has appeared in Granta, The Dublin Review, The Stinging FlyThe Long Gaze Back (New Island) and Town & Country (Faber). She is a co-founder and editor of the literary journal Banshee and its publishing imprint, Banshee Press.

She is a sports columnist with the Irish Examiner and has written about women in sport for The42.ie, ImageStranger’s GuideWinter Papers and elsewhere. She is currently working on a book about camogie. She lives, writes and plays in Cork city.

Book Introduction: Stones Corner Turmoil by Jane Buckley.

  • ASIN ‏ : ‎ B08TMX13YZ
  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Orla Kelly Publishing (January 25, 2021)
  • Publication date ‏ : ‎ January 25, 2021

Book Description:

Caitlin McLaughlin is just like any other teenage girl: during the week she works at the Rocola shirt factory in Stones Corner, Creggan where she has become secretary to her boss’s dishy nephew James.

At the weekend she likes music and trips into the city with her best friend, but this is Derry 1972. A simple trip to the shops can lead to life-changing injuries or death and staying at home can be just as dangerous when the British Troops raid house to house .

Robert Sallis is a private with the Royal Fusiliers recently posted to the city. He’s repelled by the way some of his fellow soldiers behave; wary too of civilian feelings running high against the occupying army. Accidentally separated from his patrol in Creggan, he’s discovered by Caitlin hiding in her family’s garden. He expects the worse but having seen enough violence too close to home, she doesn’t give him away. Instead she prefers to daydream about her charming boss who has made his feelings for her plain.

A Catholic girl from the Bogside and the Protestant heir to a big local employer….In her youthful innocence, Caitlin believes their love can overcome the triple obstacles of politics, class and faith. Meanwhile Robert, newly recruited to British undercover forces, is closing in on a terrorist strike in the heart of the city centre.

If you love a terrific thriller with individual stories that form a cataclysmic ending then this book is for you!

Meet Jane Buckley

Jane Buckley has been an avid reader all her life. She began writing her first novel in 2017, and used
the lockdown period to finish ‘Stones Corner: Turmoil.’

She lives just outside Derry, Northern Ireland an is married with two daughters: Cassie, who lives in Oxford, and Maggie who lives in Auckland NZ. She is delighted with her grandchildren, Charlie and Alba.

Debut author Jane Buckley grew up in Derry/Londonderry, Northern Ireland in the pressure-cooker atmosphere of The Troubles. Stones Corner Turmoil is her unbiased account of people on both sides of the sectarian divide, struggling to live and love against a background of chaos and carnage.

From the Author: I was fortunate enough in my previous career to travel all over the world. Time after time and being brutally honest, I got a little frustrated when I’d be asked over and over again, “So tell me, what are the Troubles in Ireland all about?” I wrote the first in my Stones Corner Series to explain and importantly help them experience what it was REALLY like.

Click on Link Below for a Delightful Video of Jane Buckley live from Derry!

Available on Kindle at Amazon


To purchase paperback copies of Stones Corner please visit :


https://janebuckleywrites.com/shop/p/…

Jane Buckley | Stones Corner (@janebuckley_writes) • Instagram photos and videos

(7) Jane Buckley | Facebook

(20) Jane Buckley (@janebuckley_sc) / Twitter

5.0 out of 5 stars Must read, thrilling I couldn’t put it down

Reviewed in the United States on March 31, 2021

This is one of the best books I’ve read. It is a thrilling account that’s based on historical facts that occurred in Derry (Londonderry) during the height of The Troubles in Northern Ireland. It’s a raw emotional and very well written portrayal of the feelings, experiences and the day to day struggle of the lives of all involved during those times. This book is very important too, as a lover of history this story really puts the feelings behind the headlines and pictures that most only read about in newspaper headlines. If you are looking for an important view on this topic, or a thrilling story you can’t put down then pick up this book now!

Happy St. Patrick’s Day

​You’ll see in this photographs that I’m standing against a gray stone wall on a windswept day in the middle of an Irish field, with what are obviously the ruins of a monastery behind me.

Observant people might ask why the monastery is behind me, and I am holding a set of keys in my hand as if it were the bigger focal point. Here’s the story.

We kind of knew where we were heading, my friend Tama and I, and by this I mean we had a loose plan with regard to how we were going to spend the afternoon in Gort, Ireland. We’d been freewheeling across the countryside in a rented car the size of a match box, with its steering wheel on the right side, while we drove on the left of the two-lane road as if trying to best a test for dyslexia. Tama is a devout Catholic, who has a thing about historic churches, which is why we couldn’t have adhered to a plan had we had one. “Stop,” Tama would shout every time we spied one of the dim, ominous structures off in the distance. We’d scratch the gravel driveway and wander inside, our solitary footsteps crossing the marble floor in a tread- ye- lightly and humble yourself echo off the cavernous vaulted ceiling. We did this so many times that after yet another sweep inside a church, I’d take to wandering the halcyon graveyards to read the Irish tombstone inscriptions, while Tama would light a red votive candle and fall to her pious knees.

I thought I was alone in the yard when a voice came sailing from behind me. “Have you found your way to Kilmacduagh monastery?” it queried. I turned to find a young woman taking in my outlander attire of three quarter down jacket and rubber soled shoes. “It’s just up the road there,” she continued, pointing. “Just knock on the door of the middle house across the road and ask Lily for the keys.”

I was standing behind Tama when she knocked on the front door of a low slung house on a sparsely populated lane. Across the lane, placid fields of damp clover shimmered in the afternoon mist as far as the eye could see. On one verdant field, a series of interspersed ruins jutted in damp metal-gray; some without roofs, some with wrought-iron gates, and one in particular beside an impressively tall stone spire, which had two windows cut in vertical slashes above a narrow door raised high from the ground.

Immediately the front door opened, and a pair of blue water eyes gave us the once over with an inquisitive, “Yes?”​”Are you Lily? We’re here for the keys,” Tama said.​”The keys, is it? Just a moment there,” the woman said, and after closing the door, she opened it seconds later and handed us a set of long metal keys. “Just slip them through the door slot when you’re through,” she said, closing the door with a quick nod.I can’t say there was any indication of which key went to what, among the cluster of gates and doors throughout the 7th century monastery called Kilmacduagh, but we figured it out. I was so tickled over the keys that I couldn’t get over it. “Is this weird?” I said to Tama. “We could be anybody. It’s not that there’s anything anybody could steal, but that’s not the point.” I could wax rhapsody over the hours we spent unlocking gates and pushing through doors in the eerie, hallowed grounds, but that’s not my point either. My point is that’s Ireland for you: a stranger offering directions without being asked, Lily handing over the keys like an afterthought, and Tama and I trolling the grounds of sacred space when nobody else was around. But suddenly a German couple appeared as we were on our way back up the lane. They looked at us wide eyed and queried, “What is this place?”

“It’s a 7th century monastery,” I said, “here, take the keys and slip them through Lily’s door when you’re through.”

https://linktr.ee/cffullerton

Release Day: A Dance in Donegal by Jennifer Deibel!

A Dance in Donegal
Coming Febrauary 2, 2021 from Revell

All of her life, Irish-American Moira Doherty has relished her Irish mother’s descriptions of her homeland. When her mother dies unexpectedly in the summer of 1920, Moira accepts the challenge to fulfill her mother’s wish that she become the teacher in Ballymann, the homeland village in Donegal, Ireland.

After an arduous voyage, Moira arrives to a new home and a new job in an ancient country. Though a few locals offer a warm welcome, others are distanced by superstition and suspicion. Rumors about Moira’s mother are unspoken in her presence, but threaten to derail everything she’s journeyed to Ballymann to do. Moira must rely on the kindness of a handful of friends—and the strength of an unsettlingly handsome thatcher who keeps popping up unannounced. While Moira learns to trust Sean and his intentions, she struggles to navigate a life she’d never dreamed of . . . but perhaps was meant to live.

Dance in Donegal

About The Author:

I’m your typical American mom, working, raising kids, and loving my hubby…I’ve just been blessed to do some of it in Vienna, Austria and the west of Ireland. However, after a decade of life overseas, we have settled back in America–in sunny Arizona!

I currently teach middle school English, and when I’m not working on school things, I’m spending time with my incredible family–my husband Seth and our 3 awesome kids–and writing.

My debut novel, A Dance in Donegal, releases from Revell February 2, 2021. You can read more about that here.

I write stories that explore home through the lens of faith, family, and culture–with the beauty and depth of Ireland coloring much of it.

ADD A DANCE IN DONEGAL ON GOODREADS!

Reader Review:

5.0 out of 5 stars Great Book: Reviewed in the United States on February 2, 2021

A Dance in Donegal by Jennifer Deibel is a great historical fiction that has a wonderful plot, romance, a stunning backdrop with a dash of mystery thrown in to create an enjoyable read.

The book starts off in Boston during the 1920s where we meet Moira whom has just graduated from school to become a teacher. She ends up on a quest to her mother’s hometown village of Ballymann in Donegal, Ireland. Here Moira encounters so many new things: a different culture, societal culture and customs, the local inhabitants (some more welcoming then others), mystery surrounding her mother’s past presence here that is shrouded in questions and whispers, and possibly even love.

I love the awakening of Moira throughout this novel. Learning her profession, making friends, finding a partner/romance, facing questions of where she came from, who that makes her, what is her purpose in life, where does she fit in, and where is her home. I really enjoyed her finding herself, her place, path, and solidifying her faith. I also loved how the author was able to draw the reader in with the MC on her journey to the end of the novel. I really wanted to see how it would all wrap up.

I enjoyed the complex and rich array of characters. They were well thought out and added perfectly to my favorite part of the novel:

The location: Ireland. It was wonderful to be able to read and visualize such a beautiful place. Taking a peak into this rich culture, the people, customs, religion, daily lives, the food (oh my the food!), and the stunning landscapes at times took my breath away. The inclusion of the wonderful Irish Gaelic really added to the story as well. It is such a beautiful language. The author has a real talent in being able to give the reader a fully immersive experience to make one feel as if they were actually there right along with her, experiencing it all for the first time together. I absolutely loved imagining life within the villages of this gorgeous country within the early part of the 20th century. I learned so much about this time period there just from reading this novel.

An excellent book that has me yearning to travel to Ireland myself to find out where my own Grandmother is from.

Order A Dance in Donegal here:

Baker Book House
ChristianBook
Barnes and Noble
Target
Amazon
Books-A-Million
IndieBound
Walmart

Truth in Fiction?

Truth in Fiction?

I can’t say I didn’t see it coming. Now that my book, ‘’Dancing to Irish Reel” is out, I’m being asked the inevitable question, “How much of the story is true?” Everyone who knows me personally knows I picked up and moved to the west coast of Ireland without much of a plan, and that I stayed for a year. Add that to the fact that the book is written in the first person, that the narrator’s interior monologues in the story are unabashedly confessional to the point of unnecessary risk. I’ve been told the book reads like a memoir, and for that, I can only say I’m glad because this was my intention. I can see why readers might think the entire story is true.


But writers make a choice in how to lay out a story, and in my case, I wrote the book based on the kind of books I like to read. I’m a one-trick pony kind of a reader. I want an intimate narrator’s voice with which I can connect. I want to know exactly whom I’m listening to, so that I can align with a premise that makes the story’s swinging pendulum of cause and effect plausible. The way I see it, there are always bread crumbs along the path to the chaotic predicaments people find themselves in, and although many are blind to their own contributions, when I read a book, I want to be the one who divines how the character got there.


What fascinates me about people are their backstories. Oh, people will tell you their highlights, but they rarely reveal their churning cauldron of attendant emotions; they rarely confess to carrying acquired fears. We all want to appear bigger than our own confusion, and the key word here is “appear,” because when it comes to faces, most people like to save theirs. This is the point I wanted to make in the story, but I also wanted “Dancing to an Irish Reel,” to be about discovery, so I started with a narrator who is a fish out of water: a twenty-five year old American ensconced in a specific culture she uncovers like the dance of seven veils. In the midst of this there enters an Irish traditional musician named Liam Hennessey. He is from the region, of the region, and therefore it can only be said he is because of the region in a way that is emblematic. From a writer’s point of view, the supposition offers the gift of built-in conflict, most poignantly being the clash of the male-female dynamic set upon the stage of differing cultures trying to find a bridge. And I can think of no better culture clash than America and Ireland. I say this because I happen to know to the Irish, we Americans are a bit brazen, that we have the annoying habit of being direct. But the Irish are a discreet lot, culled from a set of delicate social manners that seem to dance around everything, leaving an American such as me with much guesswork.


No matter how they shake it, writers write about what they know, even if it has to be extracted from varying quadrants that have no good reason for being congealed. “Dancing to an Irish Reel” is a good example of this: it came to me as a strategy for commenting on the complexities of human beings inherent longing to connect—the way we do and say things that are at variance with how we really feel, in the interest of appearances, and how this quandary sometimes dictates how we handle opportunities in life. In my opinion, there is no better playing field on which to illustrate this point than the arena of new found attraction. I’m convinced the ambiguity of new love is a universal experience, and since the universe is a big wide place, and since ‘”Dancing to an Irish Reel” has something to say about hope and fear and the uncertainty of attraction, it occurred to me that I might as well make my point set upon the verdant fields of Ireland because everything about the land fascinated me when I lived there, and I wanted to take any reader that would have me to the region I experienced as cacophonous and proud: that mysterious, constant, quirky, soul-infused island that lays in the middle of the Atlantic, covered in a blanket of green, misty velvet.

Excerpt from “Dancing to an Irish Reel”

The distance between Inverin and Clifden is approximately sixty kilometers. It’s a visually inspiring hour-long ride through undulating midlands with grass as soft as velvet, gray stone walls that split the landscape, and bubbling intermittent streams as you glide along a two-lane road that cuts through a terrain devoid of street markers, stop signs, or any other indication the area has been previously trodden. There is little suggestion of civilization anywhere in sight and it is a quiet, unobstructed journey through the heart of Connemara with nothing in store, save for the destination of Clifden.

​​Driving into Clifden, one is abruptly thrust into the center of a thriving village that hosts an annual, three-day music festival wherein every pub door is invitingly open with signs outside announcing which Irish traditional musicians will be playing within the standing-room-only venues. A rudimentary chalkboard sat on the sidewalk outside of Mannion’s Pub with “Welcome Liam Hennessey” sprawled across in large, eye-catching cursive.

​I followed Liam into the middle of a waiting crowd, which parted ceremoniously as he made his way to the old man seated against the wall across from the bar. Wind-tossed and toothless, the man sat on a battered wooden chair, tuning a fiddle and nodding his greeting while Liam opened his accordion case and settled in beside him. When a flute player joined them, the crowd fell into an anticipatory hush, ready for the music to begin. I stationed myself in front of the bar, minding my own business, but that soon became short-lived.

​“Are you here with Liam?” asked a middle-aged man who was standing too close to me.

​“Yes.” I took a step back.

​“She’s here with Liam,” the man announced, turning to the man beside him.

​“Ah,” the second man gasped, “she is, so!”

​“Where did you get that blond hair on your head?” The first man eyed me.

​“I brought it with me from America,” I said.

​“She’s from America!” The man turned to the other man, his eyes opened wide.

​“America indeed!” The second man drew in his breath.

​“All I want in the world is for me brother to come in and see me standing here talking to you,” said the first man. “I wouldn’t care if a pooka came for me after that. Will you have a pint? Get her a pint, Tom,” he directed.

​“Tom, make that a half-pint,” I said, trying not to laugh. I looked over at an obviously amused Liam, who smiled and winked as if to say he knew what was happening.

​I looked toward the door and noticed an unusually small woman walking in with what appeared to be members of her family due to their similarity in stature. I’d met her in Galway before: she was a musician named Deanna Rader who played guitar and sang anything from Irish traditional music to her own compositions. I’d heard her sing in her low, husky voice a few times before, and because she was a friend of Declan’s, I’d exchanged pleasantries with her a few times as well. From the looks of things, she was in Mannion’s with her father and two sisters. She came smiling to my side instantly.

​“Well then, you’ve made your way out here now, have you?” She looked up at me.

​“I came here with Liam,” I said, grateful to know someone in the crowd.

“I knew you must have. So, it’s the two of you now, is it?”

​“Well, I don’t know if I’d put it that way,” I said, diverting the implication. I couldn’t recall if I’d seen Deanna while I was out with Liam, or if she asked this because she’d heard people talking.

​“You’re a long way from home yourself,” I said. “Is this festival a big deal?”

​“Oh God, yes. People look forward every year. Luckily my parents live in Letterfrack, just up the road. I’ve been spending the last couple of nights with them. We’ve all come ’round tonight for the craic.”

​“Well, it’s nice to know someone here,” I said.

​“My sister came out to sing tonight. Would you mind asking Liam if she could give us a song?”

​“Sure,” I said. “I’ll ask him when they take a break.”

​“They probably won’t do that, so you’d be waiting for ages,” Deanna said. “You’ll just have to lean over and ask, like.”

​“When?” I asked.

​“How about now?” she said.

​“Right now?”

​“If it wouldn’t be too much trouble,” she smiled sweetly.

I looked over at the musicians, who were in full swing. There was no way I was going to butt in, even though Deanna kept standing there looking up at me expectantly. Just then, a man at the bar stepped forward enthusiastically. He leaned into the musicians circle, grabbed Liam by the arm, and shouted loudly, “The young lady here wants to give us a song.” With that, the music came to a screeching halt, and a whirlwind of preparation commenced. Liam leaned over and whispered to the two musicians beside him, instruments were set down, a microphone was raised, a path spontaneously cleared, and into the arena stepped Deanna’s sister. It was like the infamous scene of Marilyn Monroe singing “Happy Birthday” to President Kennedy.

​There was a hush in the room as all eyes riveted upon the girl. She stood all of five foot two, but within that minuscule framework there was a lot going on: thick, raven hair fell in loose waves across her forehead and down her back. Large green oval eyes slanted and squinted catlike beneath thick, dark lashes. Turn by turn, her eyes focused and held one man in the room after another. She stood with her right hand on her hip and her voluptuous weight shifted to the left. With great histrionics, she crooned out a song in the Irish language I’d never heard before.

​When she finally stopped, she sashayed over to Liam, totally aware everybody was watching. With grand theatrics, she threw both her arms around his neck and kissed him square on the mouth, nearly knocking him over with her forward advance. All hands in the room clapped loudly, wolf whistles erupted, and a few eyes turned my way.

​“I imagine you’d have something to say about this passionate display,” said Deanna’s father, who had materialized beside me.

​“Not really,” I said. “Do you?”

​“You have to watch that one is all. She’ll be the death of me one day, he said, cocking his head toward her.

“I hope not,” I said.

“No harm done then?”

“No harm at all,” I said.

Dancing to an Irish Reel is available where books are sold!

All social media links: https://linktr.ee/cffullerton

The Boatman and Other Stories by Billy O’Callaghan

 

It’s daunting to think that no matter how I review this exceptional collection of short stories by Billy O’Callaghan, I will never adequately express my full sentiments, for how to articulate that O’Callaghan is simply the best writer I’ve come across in ages? His short stories are a treatise on the human experience, the impressionable psyche, the vulnerable human heart. He crafts his stories with the fluidity of a wave that builds slowly, crests, then turns in on itself after enveloping sight and sight unseen. To read The Boatman and Other Stories is to read a master at his craft. You’ll be swept away by the rich detail and nuance of commonplace in the hands of this powerful storyteller. I cannot recommend this collection hardily enough. Read it, treasure it, then do as I did and put it in pride of place on your bookshelf.

https://amzn.to/3f1IiaZ

Billy O'Callagahn

Billy O’Callaghan was born in Cork in 1974, and is the author of three short story collections: In Exile (2008, Mercier Press), In Too Deep (2009, Mercier Press), and The Things We Lose, The Things We Leave Behind (2013, New Island Books, winner of a 2013 Bord Gáis Energy Irish Book Award and selected as Cork’s One City, One Book for 2017), as well as the bestselling novel The Dead House (2017, Brandon/O’Brien Press and 2018, Arcade/Skyhorse (USA)).
His latest novel, My Coney Island Baby, was published by Jonathan Cape (and Harper in the U.S.) in January 2019 to much acclaim. Read more about it on the Books page.
Billy’s latest short story collection, The Boatman and Other Stories was released in January 2020 and released in the U.S. on April 28.
Billy is the winner of a Bord Gáis Energy Irish Book Award for the short story, and twice a recipient of the Arts Council of Ireland’s Bursary Award for Literature. Among numerous other honors, his story, The Boatman, was a finalist for the 2016 Costa Short Story Award, and more than a hundred of his stories have appeared or are forthcoming in literary journals and magazines around the world, including Absinthe: New European Writing, Agni, the Bellevue Literary Review, the Chattahoochee Review, Confrontation, The Fiddlehead, Hayden’s Ferry Review, the Kenyon Review, the Kyoto Journal, the London Magazine, the Los Angeles Review, Narrative, Ploughshares, Salamander, and the Saturday Evening Post.

 

https://amzn.to/3f1IiaZ

https://amzn.to/3f1IiaZ

I read O’Callaghans short story, A Death in the Family, which is included in The Boatman and Other Stories when the prestigious Ploughshares published it as a Kindle solo, here https://amzn.to/2xnqma2

A Death in the Family

I reviewed A Death in the Family by writing:

It is such a gift that Ploughshares avails this short story here on Amazon. I cannot recommend this story enough, for I consider Billy O’Callaghan the most important literary figure to arrive on the scene in ages. O’Callaghan can take any simple premise and infuse it with deep-seated, soul-stirring insight, and A Death in the Family is just such an example. His use of language is so personal that it shows us our own humanity, in this evocative, finely wrought story. Read this story and be lulled by O’Callaghan’s laser-sharp gift of Irish nuance, character, and place. And when you’ve finished, do yourself a favor and read his debut novel, The Dead House.

Here is my favorite quote on O’Callaghan’s writing:

“I know of no writer on either side of the Atlantic who is better at exploring the human spirit under assault than Billy O’Callaghan.”—Robert Olen Butler

You can read about this world-class author, here:

https://billyocallaghan.ie/en/biography/