How a book series made me long for a home I’ve never known: Review of Songs of the Shenandoah by Michael K. Reynolds

It’s been more than 15 years since I saw Ireland in the flesh. I was 20, a college student, spending an unforgettable semester studying in England, and some friends and I took a long weekend to explore the Emerald Isle. Even before our plane landed, I knew, in a way, I was home. The land spoke to me. Weird, right? I felt it in my soul.

And author Michael K. Reynolds put that into words with his Heirs of Ireland trilogy.

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I just finished the final book in the series, Songs of the Shenandoah, and I’m sad to leave these characters and settings behind. This story takes place during the American Civil War, with brothers serving on opposite sides of the conflict, and older sister Clare covering the war for her husband’s newspaper in New York. Siblings Clare, Seamus, and Davin have traveled across oceans, into the American West, fought external and internal wars, and they’re desperate to be reunited. SongsoftheShenandoah_med-sm

Nothing is easy for this family. At times, their stories are heartbreaking, and you wish they’d catch a break. But in the end, the pain, the suffering, was always worth it. That’s a risk for a writer–to ruin your characters’ lives–because we readers want the characters to be happy. (I’m not the only one, right?) But the payoff is always better because of the hard times.

Reynolds writes poetically, almost lyrically, and each book is a work of art in its own right. Together, they are a masterpiece of fiction. I will read them again.

The series starts with Flight of the Earls and continues with In Golden Splendor, covering some significant periods of 1800s American history.

A bit of Irish blood runs through my veins, which may be why this series touches me so. And it leaves me longing for a land I’ve only seen briefly and remember mostly in pictures.

One of the best historical fiction family sagas I’ve read.

 

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