3 out of 4 stars
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John Harrington was born in West Cork, Ireland, but he moved to Boston, Massachusetts, when he was young. John returned to Ireland when his father was dying with ALS but, unfortunately, didn’t make it back home early enough to spend time with him before he passed away.
While at the old homeplace, he went up into the attic to see if there was anything worth keeping. He discovered an ancient wooden box with letters inside and a lock of red hair. The letters were from his great-grandmother (Nessa) and great-grandfather (Rigby), written to each other in 1915. They revealed their adoration for one another and also disclosed a fascination with the prehistoric mound Bru na Boinne and its ancient mystical qualities. Their tale is one of love against the backdrop of World War I and the Easter Rising (Irish Rebellion) of 1916. This is while learning about and embracing the Celtic customs and beliefs.
After reading the letters, John feels a need to research more about his great-grandparents, who had seemingly disappeared. The search for information leads John on a path that will alter his life forever as he rediscovers his fondness for Ireland and his deep-seated roots.
People of the Flow by Ben H. Gagnon is a novel in the historical fiction genre but also containing both romance and mystery. The prose is eloquent and descriptive, with chapters written from John Harrington’s point of view, which then alternates with chapters detailing the story of Nessa and Rigby, written in the third person. An example of his writing skills is the sentence, “It’s a road that demands respect, curling around outcrops of granite and flirting with thousand-foot drops to the foam and chop of the Irish Sea.” With a mixture of historical people, such as Agnes O’Farrelly and the poet George Russell, and indelible characters, the writing is plausible and memorable. The concluding chapter of the book is entitled “The Flight of Souls: Vessels and Mechanisms” and details the Celtic beliefs about reincarnation and other customs. The author has clearly devoted a great deal of time researching information concerning Ireland to make the novel accurate.
Nessa and Rigby’s story took place during the time when Ireland was a colony of England and the Irish mythology, beliefs, and traditions had been replaced by Christianity and the English practices. However, Irish history was slowly being remembered and embraced by the people as they rebelled against the English ways. Nessa felt a drawing towards the ancient customs and beliefs and was unable to accept Christianity. Christians might find this offensive.
My favorite aspect of the book was believable and memorable characters. I experienced John’s sadness when he missed talking with his father one last time. I could also relate to the reemergence of his love for Ireland and the gradual change in his beliefs and priorities as the story unfolded. Additionally, the poignant love story between Nessa and Rigby was a favorite of mine.
Regrettably, I discovered too many flaws in the book, and this was my least favorite aspect. First, there were formatting issues. The lines in the first paragraph in each chapter were double-spaced, whereas the rest were single-spaced. In addition, the chapters did not always start on a new page. Occasional line breaks occurred in the story as well. Finally, too many punctuation and grammatical errors were found. It could use the help of a professional editor.
Because I dislike nothing else about the book, People of the Flow deserves a rating of 3 out of 4 stars with one star removed for the errors. Readers who enjoy books about Ireland and the Celtic beliefs, as well as romance and mystery novels, would appreciate this story. There is only borderline profanity. There are, however, some violence and sexual content, including descriptions of stone sculptures of nude couples in erotic positions. Therefore, it is unsuitable for young children.
People of the Flow
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