Marian O'Shea WernickeMay 9, 2023
Out of Ireland
She Writes Press 2023
Today I talked to Marian O’Shea Wernicke about her new novel Out of Ireland (She Writes Press, 2023).
Most people have heard of the Irish famine in 1848 and of the resistance movement against British sovereignty that consumed much of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. In this fictional attempt to understand her great-grandmother’s life, Marian O’Shea Wernicke examines the years between the famine and the Easter Rebellion of 1916. In the process, she creates a compelling tale of a young Irish girl, Mary Eileen O’Donovan, whose impoverished family forces her to marry a neighboring farmer in his forties when Eileen, as she’s known, has barely passed her sixteenth birthday.
The match improves her family’s material situation, but it is not what Eileen wants from life. A bookish girl, she has ambitions of studying to become a teacher, but pressure from her family puts paid to those plans. She grudgingly agrees to wed John Sullivan and does her best to make him a good wife. When she becomes pregnant, the couple’s newborn son unites them for a while, but John’s morose nature and frequent drunkenness make him a difficult man to love, especially for an idealistic girl.
When the crops fail and Eileen’s younger brother falls foul of the Fenians, she and John decide their only choice is to emigrate. But leaving Ireland turns out to carry a high price as well …
Marian O’Shea Wernicke, a former professor of English, is the author of A 20th-Century Man, a memoir of her father; the anthology Confessions: Fact or Fiction? (with Herta Feely); and Toward That Which Is Beautiful. Out of Ireland is her second novel.
C. P. Lesley is the author of two historical fiction series set during the childhood of Ivan the Terrible and three other novels. Her latest book, Song of the Storyteller, appeared in January 2023.