cover image Booking Passage: We Irish and Americans

Booking Passage: We Irish and Americans

Thomas Lynch, . . Norton, $24.95 (296pp) ISBN 978-0-393-04206-1

Undertaker-cum-poet Lynch (Bodies in Motion and at Rest ) recalls his long romance with Eire and how it has affected his life in this compelling memoir. He takes off for the Emerald Isle early in 1970 to meet his people, who live on the edge of the Atlantic in County Clare. He stays with his elderly cousins, Nora and Tommy, a brother and sister who never married. The humble cottage has no water and is heated by a turf fire. Here the young Yank absorbs his culture shock and learns how life is lived without television, cars and other modern distractions. After Tommy's death, Lynch and Nora become closer, and he begins to bring the 20th century into the house in the form of running water. Along the way he tells the story of the Lynches of County Clare: how they survived "starvation, eviction and emigration—the three-headed scourge of English racism"—and the pain of diaspora as they emigrated to the U.S. Along the way Lynch examines his own life: his love-hate relationship with the misogynist Catholic Church and pedophilic priests; his battle with alcoholism; the breakup of his marriage and remarriage; and his unusual love of the undertaking trade. This is a deeply thought-out book filled with poetry, pathos, triumph and lots of Irish laughter. Agent, Richard McDonough . (June)