Title: Far From the Land: An Irish Memoir
Author: Thomas J. Rice
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.