Round Rock New Neighbors is a social organization of women welcoming women in the Round Rock area since 1978. Both "new" and "old" neighbors are welcome. For more information: rrnewneighbors.org [Barnes & Noble requires that RRNN's book club be open to the public, so you do not need to be an RRNN member to attend book club, and both men and women are welcome and do attend. ]

Literary Events

Literary Events

What's New?__________

The Friends of the Georgetown Public Library’s Hill Country Authors Series events will be listed here.
________________________
Round Rock Public Library Book Group meets monthly at 7:00-8:30 PM. Check the library website for more information, or ask Carla.
____________

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

We Travel Between Ireland and Ellis Island in a Historical Novel

Most everyone, or everyone, at the book club meeting had read Ellis Island, by Kate Kerrigan. Carol told us some details from Kerrigan's life: Kerrigan was indeed Irish, which is not a surprise. She writes for radio and she has written comedies and has a new novel. Carol brought a list of questions to get us talking about the book. Below are some highlights and notes from the discussions of 3 of the questions. Disclaimer: Most of the information is from notes taken during the meeting. Please feel free to note any discrepancies or explain any understandings.

The first question asked us to discuss Ellie's parents and her relationship with them, in comparison with John's parents and Ellie's relationship with them.

               Linda H. said that Ellie's parents were cold.

               Susan noted that Ellis's mother softened a little after her husband, Ellie's strict and religious father, had died. She also said that some of the reason for the couple's distance from Ellie might have been because Ellie was their only child and had been born when they were somewhat older than most parents. This was similar to the situation between Cathy and her parents in Too Close to the Falls.

               Linda H. thought Ellis's mother was emotionally bankrupt. (Good description!)

               Carla said the father's strictness might have stemmed from his having studied to be a priest as a young man and failed to make the priesthood, plus he ended up working for the British, so he followed British law.

               Laura said Ellie's mother couldn't connect.

               Ken stated that Ellie's family was "largely deceased." Could he have been alluding to the characters in the story? Ken also noted that John's mother, Maidy, treated Ellie like a daughter, which might have explained the bonding between them.

Another question asked about the character in New York City, Isobel. Was she a good person?

               Linda H. called Isobel a "low life" and said she was a low-class person.

               I said she was an alcoholic.

               Dennis said that for the time and with the customs of the time and place, Isobel was a product of her time and place.

               Linda S. said that Irish women make good characters in stories. She said that at home, Ellie wasn't told about good things (such as the clothing and belongings Isobel had) so that Ellie would not get "above herself."        

               Susan said Ellie had to have the position working for Isobel to be qualified to go to Ireland.

The conversation seemed to change direction here, moving toward talking about immigration and immigrants, involving Ireland particularly.

               Lydia shared her family's experience, which was that a generation in her husband's family had emigrated from Ireland; and the order in which they left was the oldest first, and then the next oldest, etc. Lydia said that immigrants were never popular, giving the example of the disliked German immigrants in Little Women.

               Carla said that it's still hard to find work in Ireland, though it's better now than it was during the time in the book.      

               Ken reminded us that we are a nation of immigrants and that mixed nationalities came to America for a variety of reasons, many of which were economic.

Another question was why John didn't go to New York, when Ellie was expecting him and seemed to believe that arrangements had been made.

               Shirley said that John's not being there when he was expected was very disappointing to Ellie, especially since she had sent him a ticket. The distance at that time was very far and communicating across the ocean took a long time and was apparently often incomplete.

               Kathleen suggested that John might not have gotten through Ellis Island and been allowed to stay in Ireland, because of his limp.

A question asked about the relationship between Charles and Ellie.

               Marla remarked that it was interesting to see in the book that love and marriage meant different things then than now. She suggested that had the circumstances been similar in modern days; when John didn't show up, Ellie might have been more likely to run to Charles.

               Patty said that Ellie loved John and made the right decision. She said that if Ellie had stayed in New York City with Charles, but her life there would have been shallow.

               Cindy T. added that Ellie would have had a shallow life in Ireland after she returned, if she hadn't learned in New York City to stand up for herself. Cindy thought Ellie would have stayed poor if she hadn't matured, as she had been poor when she left Ireland.

               Pam said that Ellie was naturally independent and figured out who she was in New York.

So, this was a coming of age story in a way.

As a sort of summary, Patty read aloud the last sentence in the book. Ellis as narrator said, "America had planted the seed of freedom in my heart, but it was the rich soil of home that had enabled it to grow."

Personal note: I grew up with the last name, Ellis. My Dad grew up with that name, too. His parents had entered the USA via Ellis Island in the early 1900s from Russia. I don't know of any other name they had, ie, whether they had a name change at Ellis Island. I know my great uncle and aunt did change their name. Maybe my grandparents changed it before they left Russia or after they were through Ellis Island and in New York.

No comments: