Flight of the Earls
Michael Reynolds's debut novel
Flight of the Earls
, hauls you into an Irish family at the beginning of the potato famine. Sending their grown children to America might save them all. Clare lands in New York City to find another kind of famine, lack of morals, all encompassed by greed and corruption. Clare's dogged fight to keep her family alive amidst overwhelming odds makes her a standout heroine. I heartily recommend
Flight of the Earls
and look forward to the next. Michael Reynolds is an author to look out for.
âLauraine Snelling, author of the continuing family saga of the Bjorklunds, the Blessing books, as readers call them, and the new Wild West Wind series with
Whispers on the Wind
A Place to Belong
Michael Reynolds has given us a stunning debut novelâa saga that will capture both your heart and your mind as you journey back in time to experience triumph in the midst of crushingâexcept for Christâcircumstances. A soaring chronicle of immigrant America and beleaguered Ireland that will keep you reading late into the night.
Stephanie Grace Whitson, Christy finalist and best-selling author of historical fiction
My ancestors on my grandfather's side immigrated from Ireland during the great potato famine. It's something I knew but didn't really understand until reading
Flight of the Earls
by Michael K. Reynolds. The questions, fears, and hopes of a generation come to life through this novel. I found my emotions wrapped up in the middle of it . . . a sign of good fiction!
Tricia Goyer, best-selling author of thirty-three books, including
Beside Still Waters
From the Irish potato famine to the seedy streets of New York, Michael K. Reynolds takes the reader on a moving adventure. The writing sings, the story thrills, the characters are unapologetically realistic, and the message of hope and trust shines even in the grit. A novel not to be missed!
Sarah Sundin, award-winning author of
With Every Letter
Flight of the Earls, Digital Edition
Based on Print Edition
Copyright Â© 2013 by Michael K. Reynolds
All rights reserved.
Printed in the United States of America
Published by B&H Publishing Group,
Dewey Decimal Classification: F
Subject Heading: IRISH AMERICANSâFICTION \ IMMIGRANTSâFICTION \ FAITHâFICTION
Publisher's Note: The characters and events in this book
are fictional, and any resemblance to actual
persons or events is coincidental.
Scripture quotations are taken from the New International Version (NIV), Copyright Â© 1973, 1978, 1984 by the International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved. Also used is the Holy Bible, King James Version.
For my mother, Sheila, who gifted her love of writing
For my wife, Debbie, who inspired me to write of love
The Death Fog
Branlow, County Roscommon, Ireland
Most days blended into the grayness of Liam Hanley's life, but this particular one haunted, a brooding prophetess tormenting the potato farmer with visions of his precious dream succumbing to the Irish downpour of misfortune, washing out his aspirations in familiar brown rivulets of defeat.
The shrouding twilight lingered and Liam, with rumpled and silvering brows, surveyed his ancestral field as if for the last time, his head throbbing with dark suspicions he had yet to share with anyone. A secret he wouldn't reveal until absolutely certain of his shame.
He was like a general on the eve of a hopeless battle, while his soldiers, not fully aware of their impending doom, played cards in tents, exchanged uneasy jokes, and wrote letters for back home that would never arrive.
Just two days earlier, something sinister arrived in the ashen mist. This fog, an encroaching apparition, arms engulfing mud homes, stony hovels, and lowing cattle of his pastoral village, brought with it a peculiar scent of decay.
Beneath the usual earthy smells of peat smoke rising from rock chimneys, hoe-churned soil, and tall moist grass, the odor was subtle to discern. But for Liam, whose heart pulsed in rhythm with his land, the growing presence of the stench overwhelmed his senses to the point of debilitation.
Still, there remained a chance his instincts were deceived, and Liam clenched on to this fraying possibility with all his being as if it were the final breath left in his pained soul. Perhaps the foulness was merely a drifting wind from the bog or a rotting corpse of some stillborn calf.
As it was, the full revelation stood beneath his ragged and soil-stained leather boots. All he needed to do was bend down and rake his fingers through the soil.
But Liam wasn't ready for the truth. Was it cowardice? Self-preservation? Or was he stalling in some bitter expectation the curse would be withdrawn?
These thoughts were interrupted by the unsuspecting laughter of his children echoing behind him. Their voices emanated from the one-room, thatched-roof mud hovel where many of the Hanley ancestry were birthed with groans, raised in squalor, and died without distinction.
Liam drifted down the short slope leading to the entranceway of his shanty. He paused before the bent oaken door and released a heavy sigh before entering.
The chattering halted, and the faces of his family looked at him with poorly concealed disappointment. And for this welcome each evening, he toiled without cease.
“Father.” Clare, his unwed twenty-four-year-old daughter, managed a smile. “The meal's just now for serving.” With her flowing black hair, fair complexion, long lashes, and sparkling sapphire eyes, his daughter was too beautiful to be alone, but she sought more than this town had to give and was unwilling to accept her standing.
Liam hung his patched jacket on the iron wall hook and took his place at the head of the sagging dinner table. Ronan, his ten-year-old boy, limped to a seat, all the while tracking his father with eyes of apprehension.
The freckled and curly-locked Davin, the youngest by a couple of years, slid into his chair as well. He lifted his tin cup, put his eye to it, and then turned it upside down. “Is the well dry?”
“You'll be last served now.” Caitlin, with blonde hair adorned with a faded pink ribbon, poured water into Liam's cup from a wooden pitcher, her two jittery hands fearful of spilling.
Clare placed a large bowl of potato pottage in the center of the table and then, beginning with Liam, ladled portions for each of them.
“Seamus?” Liam started slurping his meal.
Caitlin glanced at Clare and then spoke. “Out.” Having served the water, she settled into her chair.
“He said he had doings with Pierce.” Clare shook her head and with her free hand pulled a wet rag from her dress pocket. She dabbed a splotch of dirt off of Davin's cheek and then patted him on the head.
Liam grunted and pointed a dripping spoon in the direction of the two boys. “You turn out half as shiftless as your elder brother and I'll trade you at the market for a new shovel. Might just do it otherwise.”
“Da. Speak gently. They can't tell you're quipping.” Clare positioned herself next to the rocking chair in the corner of the room where Liam's wife, Ida, idled throughout the day.
“Quipping? You keep those words in your fancy books, where they won't be frightening away working lads.” Liam cringed at the sight of his daughter beginning to spoon-feed the old woman.
The cackle of an ember from the peat fire drew Liam's attention to the hearth, where the flames stretched for freedom. “Clare! Must you be so wasteful with the logs?”
“Ma had the shivers.”
“Ah, she did? Is that so?” Liam paused, brimming with the urge to speak his thoughts. Would it be anything but merciful if his wife took ill? Two years was forever to be in this condition. He had grieved when his little boy drowned, just as much as Ida, but he didn't allow himself to go mad. Who would have provided? Who else but Liam?
“C'mon, Ma,” Clare said. “You must eat.”
“We can go to the bog and cut more peat,” Ronan said, his face brightening. “We'll do that for you, Da. Clare will take us, will you?”
Davin didn't wait to swallow his food. “He just wants the frogs. For their legs.”
“Not so.” Ronan glared at his younger brother.
“What nonsense is this?” Clare stood and wiped her hands on her apron.
“True it 'tis,” Caitlin said. “Seamus was 'splaining to Ronan if he chewed on ten legs, it would heal him up.”
Davin nodded with sincerity. “And with twenty? With twenty he could leap to the roof.” He motioned with his dirty hand from the table into the air.
Ronan shrunk in his chair.
“Is that so?” Liam said abruptly. He pointed to his cup and Caitlin lifted the pitcher, leaned over, and tilted the handle. The snapping fire and the trickling of water was all that could be heard.
Liam was aware his emotions were poisoned by today's circumstances, but he lashed out nonetheless. “Not certain what's more foolish. You two boys believing Seamus for anything, or the very thought of Ronan hobbling . . .” He started to chortle and it felt good. “Or you, Ronan, limping after frogs in the bog.”
He laughed for a few moments, then hacked a few coughs before drinking some water. His family gazed at him with numbness.
Clare walked over to Ronan and kissed the boy on the forehead. “He's a fine frog catcher, don't you know?”
Liam hated when his daughter intervened and played up her kindness, making him villainous. It spurred him to gouge deeper, and he was pondering a retort when he noticed something was askew. “Where's the chair?” A sudden pulse of anger swelled.