"A Thousand Moons: A Novel" by Sebastian Barry

Some of the most insightful contemporary writing about America is being produced by Irish writers.

Our long engagement with the rise and fall of the United States arises in part from our own postcolonial journey, where it has long served as both a beacon and a cautionary tale. 

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In Sebastian Barry's "A Thousand Moons: A Novel," we encounter Winona Cole, the orphaned child of Lakota Indians, now sheltered and raised by her same-sex parents John Cole and Thomas McNulty on a farm in west Tennessee. 

Author Sebastian Barry. Credit: Getty Images

Author Sebastian Barry. Credit: Getty Images

Barry told the story of the great love between the two men in his critically acclaimed previous novel "Days Without End," and now we join Winona as she forges a new life for herself beyond the violence and dispossession of her hard past.

If the two men lived on the fringes of 1860's society, Winona lives at an ever further remove in 1870's America. She is treated as a non-citizen and victimized rather than protected by the law. Barry has a lot of hard things to say to our own times about unequal treatment and how it is enshrined. 

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How to survive a world that seems expressly designed to cheat and kill you is part of the theme that carries over from "Days Without End." The rough work of making America is still a tale to be reckoned with and the bill is becoming increasingly due, as Barry's new book reminds us.

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