Notes from a Spinning Planet: Ireland

12 Aug

IrelandMelody Carlson

Publisher: WaterBrook Press

Publication Date: 2006

Paperback: 240 pages

Book Blurb:

Affectionately teased as a “country bumpkin,” nineteen-year-old Maddie has never been one to explore new territory. Her first trip outside of the country with her Aunt Sid and Sid’s godson, Ryan, promises to be an exhilarating adventure.

As Aunt Sid researches peace camps, Maddie and Ryan explore Ireland’s rich landscape. During the journey, Maddie begins to discover more about what she wants from life, while developing a deeper friendship with her irresistible traveling companions.

When Maddie and Ryan dig for the truth about the IRA car bomb that killed Ryan’s father years ago, questions about the past begin to accumulate. Unable to let go of growing suspicions in this mysterious country, Maddie finds herself on a dangerous journey, a journey that will lead her to the greatest discovery of all.

Stand alone or series: The first in a series of three. Check back in on Wednesday and Friday for the reviews of books two and three of the series.

Why I read this book: I won’t give too much away but the novel I am currently writing is geared towards teens and set in a country other than the US. When you’re writing about a particular subject it’s always interesting to see how other authors handle the same subject.

Review:

I’ve always loved travel, particularly in Europe, and this novel has whetted my appetite for Ireland. The novel describes sweet little towns like Clifden and Inishbofin that I would never have found wandering on my own. These towns along with other cities described in the novel are bustling with life that I found easy to get swept into. Carlson’s descriptions are enchanting and through them we learn about the customs and culture of Ireland. And man! does she make me want to try the food! But we don’t just see the surface, Carlson provides the fascinating historical background for the IRA, the RIRA and the conflicts that have plagued Ireland for decades  through Maddie and Ryan’s adventures. The character’s troubles and pasts intertwine with the gorgeous description to create a twisting plot which is entertaining to watch unfold.

Sid and her best friend, Ryan’s mom, came to Ireland decades ago to be a part of the peace camps between Catholics and Protestants in Ireland. Both found and lost their loves in different ways on the island. Now Sid is back to write a story on kids who went to the peace camps decades ago. She brings Ryan along to learn about where his father came from and hopefully find some long lost relatives to give him at least some family in this world. Maddie’s along for the ride and oh what a ride it turns into.

My one sticking point with the novel has to do with Guinness, and yes, I mean the beer. (Okay, I’m not entirely sure if this is a spoiler or not. It does give something away, but it’s not a big plot point, it’s more of a side issue. So, I leave it up to you to decide.) Drinking is part of the Irish culture, so Ryan decides to take advantage of this and the fact that in Ireland you can drink at 18. At first Maddie is freaked out by pubs simply because they offer alcohol, and shocked and appalled by Ryan’s drinking. Because Ryan drinks she assumes he’s not a Christian and confronts him about the drinking, stating she is a Christian and believes it is un-Christian to drink. I know many people with this view and I held it myself for a long time from a mistaken impression. It’s her change of heart that gives me pause. Mine came after a lot of Bible study, where I pulled out my concordance and checked every reference to drink and drinking and the like. I found that there was no mention of not drinking, only in not being over indulgent and losing control. If this had been the path that Maddie took I could respect that. However it was not. A couple pubs into the novel Maddie states: “I’m not sure why, but for the first time since we’ve been in Ireland, I don’t feel all that concerned that I’m sitting in a pub or that Ryan might have a beer. It seems like no big deal. Whether this means I’ve made some kind of spiritual compromise is a mystery to me. But at the moment, I don’t care.” Now this bothered me. If, after study and prayer, she’d changed her mind, okay fair enough. But Maddie just kind of feels it’s alright, at least the queasiness has gone away. I find this dangerous ground. There are many things in my past that felt fine, they felt good in fact and I wanted to give in but my convictions held me back (thank goodness!). Now she states very firm convictions against drinking at the beginning of the trip, but by the end she gives it a try herself without any understanding as to if or why she’s changed her mind.

I know I spent a lot of time on one rather small point in the novel, however I believe teen novels can have a big impact on young lives and I believe that responsibility should be taken seriously. Now, to get off my soap box.

Maddie comes off as a fairly average small-town teen who is trust into the great wide world. She’s a likeable character and I enjoyed seeing Ireland through her eyes. All in all I found it an enjoyable book and would recommend it to teens with an itch for travel, it’ll be a quick and enjoyable read that’ll give you a few more destinations to add to your bucket list.

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