“We Were Rich and We Didn't Know It: A Memoir of My Irish Boyhood” by Irish author Tom Phelan is the December 2022 selection for the IrishCentral Book Club.
Each month, we will pick a new Irish book or a great book by an Irish author and celebrate the amazing ability of the Irish to tell a good story for the IrishCentral Book Club.
Throughout December, we’ll be reading Irish author Tom Phelan’s memoir “We Were Rich and We Didn’t Know It” which was published in 2019.
Looking for Irish book recommendations or to meet with others who share your love for Irish literature? Join IrishCentral’s Book Club on Facebook and enjoy our book-loving community.
Synopsis of “We Were Rich and We Didn't Know It” by Tom Phelan
In the tradition of Frank McCourt’s "Angela’s Ashes" and Alice Taylor’s "To School Through the Fields," Tom Phelan’s "We Were Rich and We Didn’t Know It" is a heartfelt and masterfully written memoir of growing up in Ireland in the 1940s.
Tom Phelan, who was born and raised in County Laois in the Irish midlands, spent his formative years working with his wise and demanding father as he sought to wrest a livelihood from a farm that was often wet, muddy, and back-breaking.
It was a time before rural electrification, the telephone, and indoor plumbing; a time when the main modes of travel were bicycle and animal cart; a time when small farmers struggled to survive and turkey eggs were hatched in the kitchen cupboard; a time when the Church exerted enormous control over Ireland.
"We Were Rich and We Didn’t Know It" recounts Tom’s upbringing in an isolated, rural community from the day he was delivered by the local midwife. With tears and laughter, it speaks to the strength of the human spirit in the face of life’s adversities.
Reviews for “We Were Rich and We Didn't Know It” by Tom Phelan
"You don't have to be Irish to cherish this literary gift—just being human and curious and from a family will suffice." –Malachy McCourt, New York Times bestselling author of "A Monk Swimming"
"Other works have been situated at the same intersection of time and place, but rarely has the tale been told with such a charming simplicity of voice plus a vividness that fully captures the distinctive sound and pulse of Irish life." –Billy Collins
"Phelan's prose has an unpretentious beauty as he describes the farm, its routine and the people he remembers... With rich detail and sensitivity, We Were Rich translates for us a rural world that has disappeared. And to assist townies like me, he appends a glossary." –Star Tribune
"Plain, honest, funny, occasionally sad and rich in material detail, this wonderful memoir […] is the real thing." –Newsday
"[A] series of tender and earnest anecdotes of coming-of-age in the rural Irish midlands of the 1940s… Phelan’s vivid images of his life on the farm and at school provide a rich and colorful snapshot of the times that shaped him." –Publishers Weekly
About Tom Phelan
Tom Phelan had just turned 50 when his first novel, “In the Season of the Daisies,” was accepted for publication. Since then, Phelan has written five other novels: "Iscariot," "Derrycloney," "The Canal Bridge," "Nailer," and "Lies the Mushroom Pickers Told." Born and reared in Co Laois, Ireland, he now lives in New York.
(Synopsis, reviews, and bio information provided by Simon & Schuster.)