Friday, May 10, 2024

So Far From Home: the Diary of Mary Driscoll, an Irish Mill Girl, Lowell, Massachusetts, 1847 by Barry Denenberg


I'm going through all of my books and trying to decide what to keep and what to get rid of. SO FAR FROM HOME was an old fave when I was a kid. My mom had gotten it for me because it's about an Irish girl who leaves Cork County for America because of the potato famine, and she ends up working as a mill girl in Massachusetts. Now that I've read it, I have a lot of big feelings, and those feelings involve spoilers, so BE FOREWARNED.


This book lingered on in my consciousness for a while because I was traumatized by the scene in this book where one of the other girls is fatally scalped when her hair gets caught in the machine. And then they just drag her dead body out and start everything up again, whaaaaat. Also a little boy loses a finger.

Mills were no joke.

Apart from the fatal-to-children accidents, the book also touches upon the discrimination that the Irish faced in the 1800s, with "you're not like other Irish" remarks, people getting hated on for being Irish, the NINA (no Irish need apply) signs, and various other forms of anti-Irish sentiment. Which makes it sound like this book is super crazy, but it's actually pretty boring. Also, the author works double-time trying to make everything sound super Irish by injecting a 'twill, 'twould, or 'tis literally at least once per page. This was almost as traumatic as the mill scalping.

But the WORST thing about this book is the epilogue when the author is like "lolz, guess what bitches? two years later, that heroine you were rooting for dies of cholera." I'm getting flashbacks to the fucking Divergent series all over again lol. When I read this book as a kid, I remember thinking, WTF. On the one hand, I admire the ballsiness. But on the other, wow, what a bummer for the readers.

Some of the books in the Diaries series still hold up, but this isn't one of them imo.

1.5 out of 5 stars

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