Friday, February 17, 2012

O’Briens-Peter Behrens


Peter Behrens

Pantheon, Mar 6 2012, $25.95

ISBN: 9780307379931

On St. Patrick’s Day 1900 in Montreal, Michael O’Brien joins a cavalry unit to fight in the Boer War. Michael leaves behind five children (oldest is thirteen years old Joe, Grattan, Tom, Hope and Kate) and a wife (Ellenora). Joe took over the role of patriarch making sure everyone was fed. The new priest Father Lillis thinks stoic silent Joe is the loneliest person in the world. What Joe thought was temporary becomes permanent when Ellenora learns Michel died at Geluck’s Farm. Six months later, Ellenora married wastrel Mick Heaney who brings nothing but an appetite for drink to the table. Two years later Ellenora is dead.

With the mentoring of Father Lillis, fifteen years old Joe begins a successful lumber company. When Mick molests Hope and Kate, Joe and his brothers retaliate. Over the years Joe becomes a railroad builder while his siblings move on with their lives. Business takes him to California where he gets together with Grattan and meets Iseult Wilkins. His sister Elise gives her a camera, but soon afterward Iseult and Joe marry and have three children; with Joe obsessed with his construction company, and Iseult with their kids, charity and photography.

This is an epic family drama that focuses on the child being the adult. The storyline brings to life construction during the early twentieth century as Joe is the prime player though his extended family plays major roles. Although some sections seem overly descriptive slowing down an insightful family drama; fans will enjoy the biographical fictional account of the O’Briens.

Harriet Klausner

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