Monday, February 25, 2019

Review: Last of the Name by Rosanne Parry


Twelve-year-old Danny O'Carolan and his sister, Kathleen, arrive in New York City in 1863. Kathleen refuses to be parted from her only remaining relative, so she finds a job in domestic service for herself and her younger...sister. Danny reluctantly pretends to be a girl to avoid being sent to the children's workhouse or recruited as a drummer boy for the Union army. When he occasionally sneaks off to spend a few hours as a boy and share his rich talent for Irish dancing, he discovers the vast variety of New York's neighborhoods. But the Civil War draft is stoking tensions between the Irish and free black populations. With dangers escalating, how can Danny find a safe place to call home?

While Civil War novels abound, this is not a perspective often seen: that of Irish immigrants, who escaped terrible persecution and danger in one country, only to find it again here. We learn about the sources of tensions gradually through Danny and Kathleen's eyes, as they learn to navigate their new home. A variety of characters, many as interesting as the main characters, help readers understand that there are usually multiple sides to any conflict - and that violent, emotional responses have unintended consequences. There is even a bit about gender, race, and class privilege. While some may tend to put all early immigrants into the same frame of mind, details help readers understand how very different each group could be - in history, in faith, in prejudice, and in While the final solution stretches plausibility, it is rewarding to see things come together for many of the characters.

This book will be available in April, and may help fill in a gap in your historical fiction that you didn't know you had!

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