Author: Hazel Gaynor
Published: April 2014 by William Morrow Paperbacks
Category: Dual Timeline, Historical Fiction, Based on Fact, Contemporary, Book Review
Fourteen members of a small village set sail on RMS Titanic, hoping to find a better life in America. For seventeen-year-old Maggie Murphy, the journey is bittersweet. Though her future lies in an unknown new place, her heart remains in Ireland with Séamus, the sweetheart she left behind. When disaster strikes, Maggie is one of the few passengers in steerage to survive. Waking up alone in a New York hospital, she vows never to speak of the terror and panic of that fateful night again.
My first experience of Hazel Gaynor’s books was The Lighthouse Keeper’s Daughter, based on the life of Grace Darling, which I loved. I enjoy the fact there’s truth mixed in with fiction and The Girl Who Came Home is no exception. It tells the story of Maggie Murphy from Ballysheen, Ireland, who was travelling with a group of women from the village, bound for New York and booked on the Titanic for the ship’s maiden voyage in 1912. The story was inspired by events surrounding the true story of the Addergoole Fourteen, Irish emigrants from County Mayo.
When Maggie was left an orphan, her mother’s sister and Maggie’s guardian, Aunt Kathleen, came from America to take Maggie back to Chicago with her. The thought of leaving Ballysheen and being separated from her sweetheart Séamus Doyle, the man she thought she would marry, left seventeen year old Maggie feeling bereft and anxious about the journey.
“You certainly don’t need to be worrying about Maura Brennan, I can tell ye,” Kathleen had replied, brushing Maggie’s naïve fears easily aside. “She’s crossed that ocean more times than most men ever will, and a baby in her belly won’t make one bit of difference. Anyway, we’re sailing on the Titanic, the biggest ship in the world. Unsinkable, y’know. No better crib for any of us.”
Seventy years later in Cass County, Illinois Grace Butler rummages through her great grandmother’s attic searching for a small black case…
Everyone knows the story of the Titanic’s fateful maiden voyage and there have been lots of books written. I particularly enjoyed this one because of the perspectives. The Girl Who Came Home is told in a dual timeline. Maggie’s and the villagers in 1912 as they prepare for their short and terrible journey on the Titanic. Grace, seventy years later in America, trying to get her life back on track after the death of her father. Learning of her great grandmother’s incredible story gives them a much needed new direction and a welcome sense of peace.
Hazel Gaynor’s descriptive writing—the settings, the ship and steerage accommodations, the scenes in the North Sea as unconcern turns to confusion, then to fear and panic—is clear and vivid. Then the terrible aftermath as the ship goes down. No matter how many times I read about the sinking of the Titanic it gives me chills and brings a lump to my throat.
Maggie stood in a daze, unable to comprehend what she was seeing. All around her, people were running, some carrying deck chairs, some holding wooden crates or empty trunks, others clutching life rings—everyone desperately searching for something they might be able to hold on to in the water—something that might mean the difference between life and death.
The characters are well fleshed out and realistic, their stories brought to life and carried on after the tragedy. I liked the fact the first class passengers had supporting roles and those in steerage were the heart of the story. Also, the actual sinking of the ship was a fairly small part of the story and lives before and after took up most of the narrative. Focus was also on the people in New York, waiting for the Carpathia to dock, the shock and desperate hope for the ones they waited for, the desolation when they didn’t appear.
I enjoyed both timelines, the story was well researched, written sensitively and poignantly with some very emotional scenes.
About the Author
Hazel Gaynor is an award-winning New York Times, USA Today, Irish Times, and international bestselling author. Her 2014 debut THE GIRL WHO CAME HOME won the 2015 RNA Historical Novel of the Year award, A MEMORY OF VIOLETS was a 2015 WHSmith Fresh Talent pick, THE GIRL FROM THE SAVOY was shortlisted for the 201 Irish Book Awards, and THE LIGHTHOUSE KEEPER’S DAUGHTER was shortlisted for the 2019 HWA Gold Crown Award. LAST CHRISTMAS IN PARIS (co-written with Heather Webb) won the 2018 Women’s Fiction Writers Association Star Award. Their most recent collaboration is MEET ME IN MONACO which was shortlisted for the 2020 RNA Historical Novel of the Year award.
Hazel’s forthcoming unforgettable historical novel is set in Japanese-occupied China during WW2. Titled THE BIRD IN THE BAMBOO CAGE (UK/Ireland/Australia/New Zealand) / WHEN WE WERE YOUNG & BRAVE (North America), it will be published in August and October 2020, respectively.
Author: Jennifer Hillier
Performed by January LaVoy
Released on Audible: June 2018 by Macmillan Audio
Category: Psychological, Thriller, Mystery, Suspense, Audiobook, Review
This is the story of three best friends: one who was murdered, one who went to prison, and one who’s been searching for the truth all these years . . .
When she was sixteen years old, Angela Wong—one of the most popular girls in school—disappeared without a trace. Nobody ever suspected that her best friend, Georgina Shaw, now an executive and rising star at her Seattle pharmaceutical company, was involved in any way. Certainly not Kaiser Brody, who was close with both girls back in high school.
Fourteen years ago the community of Sweetbay was rocked when sixteen year old Angela Wong went missing, never to be seen again. Now all these years later her remains have been discovered near her best friend, Georgina (Geo) Shaw’s childhood home where Geo’s father still lives. Geo and Angela, along with Kaiser Brody, now a Detective with the Seattle PD, were as close as friends could be in high school. Until Calvin James came on the scene. His presence changed, not only the dynamics of the trio but also their lives. What Geo carries with her from then on will affect her for years to come with devastating consequences.
Author: Louise Beech
Published: September 2018 by Orenda Books
Category: Contemporary Gay Fiction, Romance, Book Review
Long ago Andrew made a childhood wish. One he has always kept in a silver box with a too-big lid that falls off. When it finally comes true, he wishes it hadn’t…
Long ago Ben dreamed of going to Africa to volunteer at a lion reserve. When he finally goes there, it isn’t for the reasons he imagined…
Ben is fulfilling a long held dream, and a promise he made years ago, although he never could have envisaged the circumstances that finally brought the dream to reality. Nevertheless here he is, a volunteer at the Liberty Lion Rehabilitation Project in Zimbabwe and it seems he isn’t the only one escaping from love and life.
Author: Claire Fullerton
Published: May 2020 by Firefly Southern Fiction
Category: Southern Fiction, Family Saga, Book Review
Southern Culture … Old Friendships … Family Tragedy
One phone call from Renny to come home and “see about” the capricious Ava and Celia Wakefield decides to overlook her distressful past in the name of friendship.
For three reflective days at Renny’s lake house in Heber Springs, Arkansas, the three childhood friends reunite and examine life, love, marriage, and the ties that bind, even though Celia’s personal story has yet to be healed.
Three childhood friends, Ava, Renny and Celia, grew up together and are now scattered around the country. Even though their lives have taken different directions, the ties of a deep friendship remain. When Ava is having serious doubts about her marriage and needs support, the three women get together for a few days at Renny’s lake house in Heber Springs, Arkansas. Ava has arranged to see her ex boyfriend, Mark while she’s at the cabin, unbeknownst to Celia and Renny, and he brings Celia’s ex fiancé over, which stirs up memories and emotions Celia had long since hoped would stay buried.