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Ellis Island: A Novel by Kate Kerrigan
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Ellis Island: A Novel (edition 2011)

by Kate Kerrigan

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2052957,211 (3.61)11
Member:ElizabethPotter
Title:Ellis Island: A Novel
Authors:Kate Kerrigan
Info:William Morrow Paperbacks (2011), Edition: Reprint, Paperback, 368 pages
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Ellis Island by Kate Kerrigan

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Ellis Island by Kate Kerrigan is a historical fiction novel set in the 1920s when Ireland is fighting for Home Rule, and Ellie Hogan makes a bold choice to accept a job in New York City to raise the money her husband needs for an operation. Ellie is not like the other members of her school group; she dreams of fine things and a life outside her little village of Kilmoy. Her childhood friend, John, and his family become like a surrogate family for her, showing her the kindness she lacks from her own parents who are so insulated that they forget to hug their daughter and encourage her. Her friendship soon blossoms into love, a childhood love that becomes a motivation for her to impress, to move beyond the bounds of her family.

Read the full review: http://savvyverseandwit.com/2013/08/ellis-island-by-kate-kerrigan.html ( )
  sagustocox | Aug 23, 2013 |
Kerrigan writes a story with great emotion in the story of a female Irish immigrant who returns to Ireland. Its a feel good story with the heroine meeting with success before she even leaves the ship for Ellis lsland. This story of success where she meets wealthy and is loved by a wealthy man. Her return to her husband and the poor rural life in Ireland again meets with success when she creates her own store which is wildly successful. A good book for summer, though, upbeat with the message hard work brings success. ( )
  brangwinn | Aug 11, 2013 |
The title is a misnomer, for sure; Ellie does not get to Ellis Island until the second half of the book, and then she's only there for a few pages. Why is it called Ellis Island? Very strange. The parts I enjoyed most were the descriptions of her life in Ireland, not her unrealistic forays in New York City. Ellie strikes me as extremely selfish so it was difficult for me to drum up any sympathy for her. ( )
  amandacb | Aug 7, 2013 |
Ellis Island by Kate Kerrigan is a novel about Ellie, an Irish girl who grows up in a small town and marries her childhood sweetheart, John. When John is injured fighting with the IRA, Ellie knows she needs to find a way to pay for the expensive operation that will allow him to walk again. At the same time, she gets a letter from a school friend, Sheila, who has moved to New York City and offers Ellie a position with her employer, an eccentric and rich woman named Isobel.

Ellie leaves her husband and her homeland, vowing to stay away just long enough to earn enough money for John's medical treatment. Soon, though, she gets swept up in the American dream and the lavish lifestyles she finds within her reach. As John refuses to leave Ireland, Ellie wonders if she can ever leave New York, and if she does, if Ireland will ever feel like home again.

I enjoyed reading Ellis Island - it is a simple story of love complicated by money. The writing was straightforward, though at times Kerrigan seems to set up a plot complication without seeing it through. At one point Ellie is interrupted while writing a less than flattering letter home about her employer, and she stashes the half-written note under her mattress. I expected that someone would find it and get her into trouble, but it was never mentioned again. To paraphrase Anton Chekhov's advice on writing - if you introduce a loaded gun, somebody better fire it.

Likewise, the story moved between places, people, and circumstances without dwelling on them much once they were gone (with the important exception of the juxtaposition between New York City and Ireland). Kerrigan spends a lot of text talking about Ellie's boat ride from Ireland to New York, introducing several peripheral characters that Ellie, as the first-person narrator, apparently never thinks about again. Why spend so much time describing the journey if it doesn't have a long-lasting impact on the character? Maybe as a kind of transition in the story between the two important settings?

I keep trying to nail down exactly what it was about this novel that made it good-but-not-amazing to me, and I think it has to do with the lack of depth. Everything felt kind of cursory - the characters, the events, the plot. Almost as if we never really got down to the meat of everything. I can't say that the reader did not get to know Ellie, John, and the other major characters, but it felt like we could have known them better, on a more personal level. Maybe they were a little flat and not three-dimensional enough for me? Maybe Kerrigan attempts to cover too much time in too few pages? The first third of the book is background information about Ellie and John's relationship as children, which does help us understand them better, but I almost wish Kerrigan had spent more time on the main tension in the story - Ellie is in New York, her husband is in Ireland, neither wants to leave but both want to be together - and then just suggested or hinted back to their upbringings.

I think that's it. To me, the most interesting dynamic going on in the story was that these two people in love wanted such different things. I wanted Kerrigan to spend more time exploring those emotions - making them real and painful for the reader, instead of some of the background information. The closest Kerrigan got to making the reader feel the characters' despair is when she describes Ellie waiting at Ellis Island for her husband to arrive, and then her disappointment when he does not come. I wanted more of that!

Ellis Island is a cute historical fiction novel. I've read many novels about Irish immigration to the United States, but never from the point of view of an Irish author rather than an American. The ending left the reader with a message more powerful than the typical immigration story. Readers who enjoy historical fiction, Ireland, and/or New York City will enjoy this novel. ( )
  ReadHanded | May 30, 2012 |
This started slow for me, painting a picture of Ellie’s childhood in Ireland, and her friend John, who later became her husband. They have difficulty making ends meet, and when John is injured in the War of Independence, Ellie follows a friend to the US to earn money for an operation that they hope will allow him to walk again. She intends to be there only for a year, but falls in love with life in America in the 1920s, and asks John to come out to join her. This is when the book became gripping for me. Ellie no longer feels that the life that she would have in Ireland would satisfy her, and yet John can’t bear the thought of leaving the place where his roots are, and the country that he sustained his injury fighting for. I really felt for both of them, and was completely engrossed in the latter half of the book as this story unfolded … ( )
  seekingflight | May 19, 2012 |
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Book description
Ellie Hogan and her husband John were childhood sweethearts, destined to live together on his farm in Ireland. But when John, a soldier for the Irish Republican Army, becomes too injured to work, Ellie must take drastic measures in order for them to survive. Like many other young Irish women in the 1920s, she immigrates to New York City, to work as a maid for a wealthy socialite.

In New York Ellie is introduced to a sophisticated lifestyle, including a charming suitor who can give her all she ever wanted. While her heart remains with her husband, Ellie is tempted by this glittering new world of fine clothes and parties, money and mansions. Soon she is faced with a monumental decision: to stay in a country full of hope and promise, or to return home to a life of poverty…and love.
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"In 1920s New York, a young Irish woman must choose between her new life and her husband back home in Ireland"--

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