BELLOWS FALLS, Vt. – Faced with the challenges of An Gorta Mor, the Great Hunger in Ireland, millions of Irish refugees left their homeland with only their courage and sought new roots in America. They include ancestors of two Eileens (O’Finlan and Charbonneau), who will be speaking and reading at Village Square Booksellers in Bellows Falls May 19 at 1 p.m.
First time novelist Eileen O’Finlan weaves a tale of the lives of vibrant Meg O’Connor, her family, and friends as they struggle to survive the 1840s potato blight in “Kelegeen.” When Meg learns of ships carrying Irish passengers to a new life in America, she is determined to go and bring her beloved Rory and their families after her. It will take all her strength and courage along with the help of her family priest and a kind English doctor to make the plan take root.
Eileen Charbonneau’s “Rachel Le Moyne” centers around the Choctaw nation’s contributions to Irish famine relief. Charbonneau’s story has the Choctaws vote to send some of their surplus corn crop to the starving Irish. Rachel LeMoyne, a respected teacher, sails to Ireland as a representative. There, Rachel is appalled by the suffering. Dare Ronan, a millworker with a price on his head, helps her feed the starving. Rachel and Dare have to leave Ireland to save his life, and they are married on board ship. When they reach America, they join a wagon train to the Oregon territory. Over the trip their marriage, which has been one of convenience, blooms into a true bond of souls.
Eileen O’Finlan’s roots are in Vermont. Her historical fiction often comes with a dark edge, but forgiveness and redemption are always interwoven into her narratives. O’Finlan holds degrees in pastoral ministry. She works for the Diocese of Worcester’s Tribunal Office and also facilitates creative writing workshops. Books, cats, and classic rock are her greatest joys in life along with a little chocolate.
Eileen Charbonneau lives in Bellows Falls. Her work has received the Golden Medallion, Hearts of the West, Andre Norton, and Phyllis A. Whitney awards. Her recent novel “Watch Over Me” has been shortlisted for the 2018 Chanticleer Reviews International award.