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The Keeners
by Maura D. Shaw

Category: Fiction / Historical
279 pages; ISBN: 1932815155

Rating: 9/10  (Ratings explained)
Reviewer: Harriet Klausner


The Keeners
Maura D. Shaw
Medallion, Mar 2005, 279 pp.
ISBN: 1932815155

In 1846 County Clare, Ireland, seventeen-year-old Margaret Meehan thinks the world is terrific as her family farm has always done well growing potatoes and she anticipates marrying Tom Riordan. Adding to her belief that all is right in her orbit is that she is also apprenticed to the elderly keener Nuala Lynch as they provide solace to those grieving the loss of a loved one.

However, her idyllic life collapses as the potato famine begins with people dying throughout the devastated country. Unable to cope with so much death and demand on the keeners and with her spouse condemned as a criminal, Margaret and Tom flee to Troy, New York, where many Irish have immigrated to start anew. Here Margaret finds her expatriate countrymen in need of a Keener, but can she use her gift after watching her family, friends, and nation die?

THE KEENERS is a superb historical tale that brings to life the blight of the Irish when the crops failed in 1846 and many fled to a new world to begin again. The key to Maura D. Shaw’s tale is the historical perspective that comes across with depth whether Margaret struggles with the nightmare of Ireland or the new optimistic beginnings in Troy. Margaret is a terrific center holding the novel together as she never forgets her roots, but wonders if she can return to keening after being overwhelmed with so much death as she suffers from a form of battle fatigue syndrome yet knows she is needed. This is a fabulous mid nineteenth century story that historical fans will cherish.

Harriet Klausner


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