Do you believe that you control your destiny or are controlled by it? No decisions are made in a vacuum, but how often do you just ride the tide of others’ opinions?
Colm Tóibín’s Brooklyn reads like an Irish Our Town with a slow inevitable pace that follows Eilis Lacey, a young Irish immigrant. Not entirely dissatisfied with her life at home, Eilis gives in to her family’s plans to get her a better future in America.
After a slow and hard crossing to the new world, Eilis survives the inevitable homesickness and alienation, and with the help of the Irish parish priest and the Irish landlady – both with ties to the homeland – starts a new life. As expected, with hard work and perseverance, she finds opportunity, work, a man, and her place in the new world – maybe her future. Sudden tragedy calls her back to Ireland, and Eilis lives in limbo between possibilities – the displaced soul.
Tóibín is an Irishman, so you can expect rich language and angst – with the themes of obedience and subversion to religion – and only a little sacrilege. He clearly defines the struggle of the immigrant family and old Irish society.
When the story line seems quietly flowing and a little boring, Tóibín inserts unexpected emotions. Suddenly, you realize you really did not know the characters at all. Brooklyn starts out as a quiet easy read, and slowly involves you. You will not be able to resist wanting to give Eilis a kick and wishing she would at least try to be a little more proactive.