Book Review: Far From the Land: An Irish Memoir by Thomas J. Rice

Title: Far From the Land: An Irish Memoir
Author: Thomas J. Rice
Genre: Memoir
Publisher: iUniverse, Inc.
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Source: ARC from the author’s publicist
First line: On a beautiful June morning in 1983, I was startled from a deep sleep by a loud banging on my bedroom door.

Thomas Rice grew up in Ireland during the 1950s, and emigrated to the US at age 17. Twenty-five years later, he is back in Ireland, working as a sociology professor on an exchange from Georgetown University. Back in his home country, the memories of his childhood come flooding back and he decides to write his memoirs, to the benefit of readers like me.

“Sonny” Rice’s story is told as a series of recollections, equal parts humor and heartbreak. He definitely has the Irish gift of telling a story. Whether he’s writing about his crush on his older sister’s fellow nursing students, being afraid of the “banshee” while walking home in the dark, working the farm with his neighbor Davy’s Arabians, watching Gaelic football with his pals, or wowing women on the dance floor, he writes with charm and panache, placing you right there with him, hearing the music, tasting the Guinness or Jameson, listening to the pub debates and stories of national pride.

As Tom grows up, he begins to realize that working the family farm in Ballinvalley with only a primary school education will not get him very far. The life of a small farmer in Ireland at that time was a life of privation, debt, heavy labor, and very little hope of improving one’s lot. With a dream of education and opportunity in the United States, Tom talks his mother into leaving Ballinvalley for Sheffield, England, to work and earn enough for passage to America – only to find that British prejudice against the Irish will make for unbearable working conditions.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading of Rice’s years growing up, his struggle for advancement, his fierce mother and feisty sisters, his stoic and loyal neighbor Davy, his romantic exploits, and his determination to reach the US. I hope that Mr. Rice will write another book continuing the story of his experiences in the States.

Highly recommended.

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9 Responses to Book Review: Far From the Land: An Irish Memoir by Thomas J. Rice

  1. Iris says:

    It sounds like an interesting book. I’m in need of a book about Ireland, since I’ve read so little of them.
    .-= Iris´s last blog ..Candide, or Optimism by Voltaire =-.

  2. Sandy
    Twitter: youvegottaread
    says:

    I always finish books like this wishing I could actually meet the person.
    .-= Sandy´s last blog ..Wordless Wednesday: Maui #10 =-.

    • CarrieK
      Twitter: booksandmovies
      says:

      Sandy – me, too – I would love to sit down at the pub and listen to him tell his stories!

  3. Sounds like a wonderful story to me – I love immigrant stories and stories set in Ireland!

    • CarrieK
      Twitter: booksandmovies
      says:

      Kathy – I’m really hoping he writes the further stories of his life.

  4. Hi CarrieK,

    As the author of Far from the Land, I’m grateful for your generous review and comments. From the early days of writing this, I learn more from dispassionate critique than appreciation, so I’m curious what was missing for you(4 rating?). Since I am now committed to a writing career, it would be most helpful to hear your perspective.

    Slan agus beannaght,

    Thomas

    • CarrieK
      Twitter: booksandmovies
      says:

      Mr.Rice – sometimes it is hard for me to pin down what makes a 4-star book (which in my rating system means “I love it”) and what makes a 5-star book (“it was brilliant and everyone should read it”). I give very few 5-star ratings comparably. I think the only specific I could point to in your book that kept it from the 5-star rating was that I desired more connection between the stories, more of a flow like I’ve found in other memoirs, instead of loosely connected chapters. And, again, that’s a very personal thing to me as a reader – other readers probably wouldn’t have the same reaction. Hope that helps! And, remember, a 4-star rating means I loved your book. :)

  5. Pingback: Recommended reading for the 2012 Ireland Challenge – plus, vote for the March read-along book | BOOKS AND MOVIES