Roundup of the latest and greatest Irish books


Among the cast of Sullivan’s novel is the Irish (lapsed) Catholic Celia, who says Hail Marys like a superstition, the beautiful Southerner Bree, who arrives at Smith engaged to her high school sweetheart but graduates with a very different idea of love, radical feminist April, who is willing to risk life and limb to expose the horrors of sex trafficking in America, and Sally, who begins college mourning the loss of her mother. While the four girls initially seem to have nothing in common, they form a bond that stays with them even as they face marriage, motherhood, and mortality. Look for an interview with Sullivan, who maintains her day job in the editorial department of The New York Times, in the next issue.

$24.95 / 336 pages / Knopf


"The Lacemakers of Glenmara" by Heather Barbieri

Heather Barbieri’s “The Lacemakers of Glenmara” does not exactly have an original premise.

Kate Robinson is a 26-year-old Irish American who flees to Ireland when she feels overwhelmed by life in the States. Naturally, she becomes enmeshed in the lives of a colorful cast of local characters in Glenmara, among them the members of a dedicated lace-making group.

Still, “Lacemakers” has plenty of heart and charm. “You can always start again,” Kate’s mother once told her, “all it takes is a new thread.”

Barbieri’s characters are nothing if not memorable, particularly the members of the group that gives the book its title. There’s Bernie, a widow, and Aileen, who seems helpless in the face of her teenage daughter’s growing independence. There’s also Moira, who is trapped in an abusive relationship.

Meanwhile, it just so happens there’s also a fellow Kate meets, an artist, who perhaps could use a lady friend to overcome some of his own past traumas.

The “Lacemakers of Glenmara” is not exactly for everyone. But those who enjoy a colorful romantic yarn will eat it up. 

$24.99 / 268 pages / Harper



"A Saint on Death Row" by Thomas Cahill

In 2003, best-selling author Thomas Cahill (“How the Irish Saved Civilization”) was in Texas. A retired Irish Catholic judge named Sheila Murphy recommended he pay a visit to a convicted murderer named Dominique Green. He did not encounter a cold-blooded killer but, instead, what Cahill calls “A Saint on Death Row,” the title of his latest book.

Green was arrested at the age of eighteen following the shooting of a man during a robbery, and was sentenced to the death penalty despite a lack of evidence.

“A Saint on Death Row: The Story of Dominique Green” explores the fight to stop Green’s execution, a fight which included a visit from Archbishop Desmond Tutu. In October of 2004, Green died by lethal injection, but knowing the ending shouldn’t stop you from wanting to read this harrowing piece and find out why.

Cahill outlines the serious flaws and corruption in the American justice system, as well as the spiritual journey undertaken by Green and his many supporters.

$18.95 / 160 pages / Nan A. Talese


“The Fence: A Police Cover-up Along Boston’s Racial Lines" by Dick Lehr

Another miscarriage of justice story is told in “The Fence: A Police Cover-up Along Boston’s Racial Lines.”

At the center of the story in Dick Lehr's latest book is South Boston Irish American cop Kenny Conley. In 1995, several Boston police officers brutally beat a man who they believed to be a gang member. Instead, it was Michael Cox, an undercover African American police officer.

During the beating, Officer Conley captured another suspect, and, so, denied witnessing the actual beating of Cox. Federal prosecutors accused Conley of lying, drawing him into a legal morass which, in Lehr’s mind, exposes huge flaws in the Boston police department. Lehr knows a lot about the ethnic wars and justice system in Boston. He (along with Gerard O’Neill) wrote “Black Mass,” the definitive account of Whitey Bulger and how the Southie Irish gangster manipulated law enforcement and escaped prosecution.

$25 / 383 pages / Harper



"Collected Poems of Ciaran Carson"

The massive new “Collected Poems of Ciaran Carson” shows the Belfast-born poet to be one of the most impressive of his generation, particularly in the diversity of his language and subject matter. Early poems such as Our Country Cousins and Great-Grandmother are insightful portraits of familial intimacy, while later works, such as the simply titled cycle Letters from the Alphabet, are complex in their form and content. Throughout, there is a heavy presence of history, of Irish and Gaelic culture, not to mention a strong sense of universality.