Bodie & Brock Thoene,
The Galway Chronicles #2:
Of Men & of Angels

(Thomas Nelson, 1998)

Bodie and Brock Thoene return to the Irish hamlet of Ballyknockanor in Of Men & of Angels, the second book in their four-part Galway Chronicles.

Set during the tempestuous time of Daniel O'Connell's movement to orchestrate the repeal of England's Union Act and reclaim home rule in Ireland, the book focuses primarily on the small-town concerns of a small farming village in rural Ireland. Joseph Burke is the region's wealthy landlord but, unlike in so many areas of Ireland at the time, he works for, not against, his people. The tenants' relative prosperity allows them the freedom to consider issues less pressing than daily survival -- and many become ardent supporters of the Repeal effort.

That sits badly with those loyal to England's crown, and it's here the Thoenes' story falters. While no one denies that England inflicted terrible attrocities on the Irish, the plot to defeat the Repeal movement by passing out smallpox-infected blankets among the poor children of Ballyknockanor goes beyond the pale. (That trick was actually used by the U.S. government to rid itself of pesky Native Americans.)

As in the previous book, the God-fearing heroes are all unquestionably good and the two-dimensional villains are uniformly bad, and there's no middle ground between them. The presence of a mysterious Tinker -- who appears without explanation at the start of the book, holds the solution to all of the town's problems, then dies heroically at the end -- is also problematic, providing tidy closure to every dramatic turn. Meanwhile, the central romance, between Burke and feisty dairy farmer Kate Donovan, crosses the line into a melodramatic soap opera.

Once again, it is the focus on the people and lifestyle of rural Ireland that keeps the story interesting. The Thoenes bring a difficult period in history to the fore, and anyone interested in Irish culture will find it fascinating to read.

- Rambles
written by Tom Knapp
published 13 March 2004

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