Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

So Far From Home: The Diary of Mary Driscoll and Irish Mill Girl

So Far From Home: The Diary of Mary Driscoll and Irish Mill Girl

Barry Denenberg
Historical Fiction  Series
For ages 12 and up
Scholastic, 1997   ISBN: 978-0590926676

Mary’s homeland is dying and many of her people are dying around her. Her parents decide that they want her to follow her aunt and her sister to America. The hope is that soon Mary will be able to work enough to make the money needed to pay for her parents passage to America and the family will be reunited once more. Still it is hard to leave the Ma and Da behind to go to a world that she knows so little about, except what her Aunt Nora has told her in her letters.

Thank goodness for Aunt Nora for very little else in America lives up to expectations. Mary’s sister Kate has become very proud and looks down on the Irish who work in the mills. The mill work itself is very hard and there is friction between the Irish and the "Yankee" girls who work the machines. The American girls are given easier and safer jobs to do and they resent the Irish whose arrival in America has meant that working conditions have changed for all workers.

Mary has many losses and trials to bear but she always tries to hope that things will get better, that her lot and that of her fellow Irish immigrants will improve with time. Her story is moving, sometimes disturbing, and it serves as a reminder that for many immigrants the place that they came to was better than the place they left but it was not the Promised Land that many expected it to be.

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