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Galway Bay

4.10  ·  Rating Details  ·  2,862 Ratings  ·  466 Reviews
Here at last is one Irish family's epic journey, capturing the tragedy and triumph of the Irish-American experience. In a rousing tale that echoes the myths and legends of Ireland herself, young Honora Keeley and Michael Kelly wed and start a family, inhabiting a hidden Ireland where fishermen and tenant farmers find solace in their ancient faith, songs, stories, and commu ...more
Hardcover, 551 pages
Published February 9th 2009 by Grand Central Publishing (first published January 22nd 2009)
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Amal Jamal This book was one of the best books I have read. It would be a wonderful book club subject as it covers so many deeply thought provoking topics. The…moreThis book was one of the best books I have read. It would be a wonderful book club subject as it covers so many deeply thought provoking topics. The main character is a profoundly strong female character living during a time of brutal British occupation in Ireland. They survive and then comes the Great Starvation and other tragedies and historic circumstances. An amazingly historic as well as beautifully written piece of literature.(less)
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Best Fiction Set in Ireland
22nd out of 340 books — 312 voters
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Best Historical Fiction Set in UK and Ireland
149th out of 1,086 books — 1,169 voters

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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Judi/Judith Riddle
Honora has been pledged to the Catholic church, to join their order of nuns, when one ordinary day, a tall dark stranger walks out of the sea on the Bay of Galway, and then walks up to her. They know that they are deeply in love at first sight! I know this must sound like a mushy gushy romance novel but it is actually the historical tale of Honara, Michael and their devotion to their children and family. This is a thoroughly researched novel based on the author's great, great grandmother who sur ...more
Books Ring Mah Bell
Jan 10, 2010 Books Ring Mah Bell rated it really liked it
About 10 pages in, I nearly set this down and walked away for good. Why?

1. Instant true love as the main character sees a man come out of the water (with a boner, no less, cause she's a hottie)

Love at first sight is pure poppycock. I almost threw the book.

2. All the, "I'm from county so and so, next to county so and so, where this famous person lived after coming from county of so and so".

3. All that Irish! I guess I should have looked upon it as a lesson in a part of my heritage (w
Mar 25, 2009 Carey rated it it was amazing
At sunrise on June 23, 1839, her sister Maire's wedding day, Honora Keeley stands on the Silver Strand of Galway Bay and gazes out. The Bay is her home and her family's livelihood since her father is a fisherman in the village of Bearna. She is sixteen years old and pledged to the church. She will join the convent as a novice nun in a few months, a great honor to so poor an Irish family as the Keeleys.

But that morning will change the course of Honora's life. Out of the sea, fresh from an early s
Feb 13, 2013 LemonLinda rated it it was amazing
From the "before" times in Ireland, tough because of the English system of land ownership, but blissful when compared to the near starvation that came with the blight through to two generations later in "Amerikay" where the family is growing, thriving and succeeding in making a "better" life, this saga is tender and exciting, hopeful and unsettling. But throughout I loved it. I loved the story, the characters, the setting and most of all the knowledge that all of the efforts for Ireland finally ...more
Sep 10, 2009 Wendi rated it it was amazing
Perfect for : Personal reading, book club read

In a nutshell: I was very interested in this story as my husband's side of the family can claim ties to Ireland, and my grandmother immigrated here from Norway (yes, NOT Ireland, but in a way, I feel I can understand what she went through on her journey here a little better after reading this book). I was hoping to learn a little more about the Irish history, and what it was like to travel to America, and I was not disappointed. This is a wonderfully
I have never actually used the phrase "tour de force" when describing a book, but I can't think of anything else that defines a work that covers as much ground as Galway Bay. We meet Honora Kelley when she's a young woman, the world ahead of her, living in a costal village on Galway Bay on the western shores of Ireland. The story begins in the "before times," when Ireland is under the harsh hand of the British and the Irish have little to their name beyond the potato to eat and the joy of each o ...more
Juliet Doubledee
Mar 25, 2011 Juliet Doubledee rated it really liked it
Couldn't have finished Galway Bay at a better time, St. Patrick's Day. This book was so much more than I had expected, and gave me a good feeling for what the Irish went through during the Potato Famine, and what led many to emigrate to America.

Written in a first person perspective by Honore Keeley Kelly, this book tells the story of a young woman who evolves from a school girl (who had aspirations of becoming a nun) into a strong woman who will do whatever needed to help her family survive the
May 18, 2009 Misfit rated it really liked it
"A nation....Can a country of unmarked graves ever be a nation?". Galway Bay begins in 1839 and covers the life of Honora Keeley, first bound for the church, until she by chance meets Michael Kelly as he's rising from the bay after a swim and it's love at first site for both. Despite the odds against them, they manage to marry and find a place to live and farm and do as well as can be expected under the British oppression - that is until the potato blight hits. With the British government insens ...more
Jun 18, 2016 Beth rated it really liked it
Mary Pat Kelly’s GALWAY BAY is a 551-page story of the Keeley and Kelly families beginning in Ireland in 1839 all the way to their lives in Chicago and their get-together at the Chicago World Fair in 1893. While the book is fiction, it is based on the lives of Mary Pat Kelly’s own ancestors and stories told to her by her cousin, Sister Mary Erigina, who lived to be 107. Mary Pat Kelly grew up on these stories told to her by this book’s narrator, Honora Keeley Kelly, who really was Mary Pat Kelly ...more
Oct 14, 2013 Vikki rated it it was amazing
I saw Mary Pat Kelly at the Kansas City Irish Fest in August, 2013 talking about Galway Bay. I knew it was a book I wanted to read. It is the story of Honora Keeley Kelly born in 1822 in Galway Bay, Ireland. Honora is Mary Pat Kelly's great-great grandmother.
Reading this book was a very pleasant way to learn more about the history of Ireland. Pleasant for me sitting reading about it from my comfortable reading chair. But it was horrible reading about the starvation that occurred in Ireland beg
Sep 27, 2011 Betty rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Those interested in historical fiction and those with Irish ancestry
Shelves: favorites
I have ancestors who suffered through the potato famine in Ireland, came to Amerikay and settled in Chicago much like the characters in Galway Bay. And my great-grandma was also named Honora as is the main character. (Though great-grandma was born in Vermont, not Ireland.) I had to read this book! I was not disappointed.

Not only was the story of the famine heart-wrending and fascinating, but so was the early history of Chicago. I grew up in Chicago and the names and places were brought to life i
Jul 13, 2009 Robin rated it it was amazing
I love historical fiction, and picked this up after reading a great review. I highly recommend it to anyone who's Irish, wants to be Irish, has visited Ireland, or can relate to hardship. Basically, everyone. Be forewarned - it is a thick book and can be time-consuming to get through, not to mention emotionally wrenching.

We've all heard about the potato famine, and the lack of respect for the Irish once they got to America, but we really have no idea what it was truly like. That's what's so grea
Jun 14, 2012 Chrissie rated it it was ok
Too cute for my tastes. Maybe I have read enough about the Irish Famine. Not much depth, rather a summary of prominent events from the Irish Potato Famine 1845-1848, subsequent emigration to America,travel from New Orleans to Chicago up the Mississippi, life in Chicago in the latter 1800s, the Irish Brigade and the role it played in the Civil War, the fire and the Fair of Chicago. Indians too. And blizzards. Everything that should be mentioned is mentioned. Maybe that is the problem - there is n ...more
Dec 20, 2012 Joni rated it liked it
This book chronicles the life of an Irish woman who marries, survives the great famine, moves to America and settles in Chicago. I learned a great deal about the potato famine from this book.
Gina Basham
Aug 01, 2013 Gina Basham rated it it was amazing
This book was very well written and researched. The subject matter is fascinating. You can picture yourself in that place at that time. Beautifully descriptive. I have seen documentaries about the great potato famine with description and numbers etc. It is quite different to read it from characters you have gotten to know and see the impact on entire families and villages. I recently read they have finally identified the fungus that caused the blight. I couldn't believe the article came out one ...more
Annie Myers
Oct 15, 2015 Annie Myers rated it liked it
Yet another book I wanted to love, but couldn't, quite. I am a great fan of Irish historical fiction, but this lacked the depth, in my mind, of, say, the Gracelyn O'Malley series. Rather, it seemed to me to be a stringing together of various legends and historical events, with some family stories mixed in. Which is fine, as far as it goes - maybe I expect too much. At times I found myself wondering if it was meant to be a Young Adult book. But I did learn a few things I didn't know before, and w ...more
Pam Brown
The Irish have a reputation for story telling, and this book lives up to that reputation. What's truly lovely about this book is that it's based on the true story of the author's own family. The main character was the author's great-great-grandmother. An older cousin who heard many of the stories from the main character herself, passed them on to the author. Then the author filled in with a great amount of her own research.

Everybody should learn about the history of Ireland under British rule. C
Mar 13, 2013 Melly rated it it was amazing

There are hardly words to describe the magic of this book, the ability of Kelly to whisk you away to 1830s Ireland and leave you stranded there, starving and hopeful as the Irish who lived it. She injects magic into a sad story, love into a dark situation. Michael and Honora are drawn as if by fate to each other and set out to make a beautiful home out of a marshy hill. They have a beautiful family, then are struck by the Great Starvation where three years out of four they're forced to scrape an
Mar 09, 2013 Mom rated it it was amazing
Oh, what a lovely book! Of course, I'm of Irish heritage and grew up surrounded by family members and family friends talking of "the auld country," its beauty, its poetry, its generous people. This book reminded me so much of my Granny, her "whist" and "Amerikay," her tales of the fairies and ancient Irish heroes, and whispered stories of relatives who were "active in the cause."

The story is based on the author's family history and it felt real and immediate. The descriptions of the potato bligh
Anthony Murphy
Jul 29, 2009 Anthony Murphy rated it it was amazing
This book is a must read for people interested in historical fiction. It is one of the best written books I have ever read and seemed to be realistic, but at the same time remain pretty positive of the whole life experience of Honora Kelly. Yes, some characters in this story do die and other terrible things do happen, but the characters seem to learn and grow from these expereinces instead of being overly haunted by these circumstances. This story also really explains much about the Potato Famin ...more
Jul 30, 2013 Darlyne rated it it was amazing
Just finished reading the book, "Galway Bay" by Mary Pat Kelly.
This book was really good, and really disturbing at the same time.
It illustrates the strength of love in the face of unimaginable hardship and suffering.
And, at the same time, it portrays the lengths we can go to in selfishness and cruelty when we choose to practice exclusion.
Eye opening book about a time of horrible famine in history.
I am quite sure that my Grandmother, who immigrated to the United States in the early 1900's, w
May 08, 2009 Challis rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Challis by: Angie Kynaston
so far this has been disappointing. It seems very juvenile and all the dialog is trite and unreal. It feels like something I would've written in grade school or jr. high.
the story isn't very interesting and not at all believable yet. the characters aren't exactly lovable, they aren't unlikeable, but I'm not fond of them yet. They seem very 2 dimensional.
I usually feel quite compelled to get into & finish a book when I start, but I started this one on Friday and have only picked it up again o
Ada Bonnefoi
Dec 15, 2012 Ada Bonnefoi rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: immigration

Mary Pat Kelly has made the life of her great-grandmother Honora Keeley Kelly (1822 - 1899) into a decades-spanning work. The daughter of a fisherman from Galway Bay married Michael Kelly and farmed with him a small piece of land. During the difficult 1840s, the Irish sell almost their entire harvest to apply the totally overpriced rent for their miserable little houses. For their own food needs they are dependent on the potato crop. In the mid 1840s, due to fungal infestation are three bad harv
Mar 07, 2010 Ryan rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-2010
Galway Bay relates the story of one woman’s journey from childhood to adult, and at the same time from the shores of Galway Bay to Chicago. The time period is 1839 to 1893. Honora Kelly is the main character and the story is told first person through her voice. It is at times a heartbreaking tale of loss, starvation, war, and oppression. The Irish potato famine of 1846-49 is recounted in vivid detail as Honora and her family first struggle to survive in Ireland and then struggle to survive just ...more
Holly (2 Kids and Tired)
Mar 15, 2009 Holly (2 Kids and Tired) rated it it was amazing
"Epic" is the first word I would use to describe Galway Bay. The words "rich" and "lyrical" would follow. Mary Pat Kelly fully captures the tragedy and triumph of the 19th century Irish emigration.

Michael and Honora Kelly, young newlyweds, begin their life together on a small patch of land overlooking Galway Bay. Michael is a bagpiper and blacksmith by trade. He's the owner of a prized racehorse and plans to breed her and sell the colts. Honora's family are hardworking fishermen and she and Mic
Apr 03, 2011 Lindsey rated it really liked it
This was a beautifully written story about the author's great, great grandmother that encompassed her life in Ireland to emigrating and settling in the US. I read a lot of historic fiction books yet never have I read one set in Ireland (w/ the exception of Angela's Ashes) so I found the history of Ireland, The Great Starvation, the treatment of the Irish by the English all very interesting. I never really knew too much about the history of Ireland and the poor reputation the Irish had when they ...more
Sep 29, 2009 JoAnn rated it it was amazing
Shelves: great-reads
This book got my attention. From the very first page, it becomes one of those books where the characters become a part of your family and you are with them!

This is a historical novel of the generations and lives of those in Ireland who live through the Great Famine and find their way to America.
Steeped in this marvelous journey, is a wondrous love story. A story that is not overdone or romantically overstated. Simply, a connection that two people make from the moment they set eyes on one another
Jun 29, 2011 Heidi rated it it was amazing
Galway Bay by Mary Pat Kelly, was a really great story about the Irish Potato Famine and one family's travels to America. Interestingly, they came through New Orleans (which I never knew was something that happened with transatlantic immigrants -- I discovered that the term 'The Big Easy" derives from the fact that big transatlantic ships found it easier to get into the MS Delta than into New York Harbor) and they settled in Chicago.

The book finishes up in the 1890s at the dawn of the Irish Ind
Feb 24, 2014 Cian rated it did not like it
In this story a irish family goes on an adventure. It's introduction was long in meaning the first 100 pages of the book were fun-filled with absolute garbage. When the plot picks up it dies down again making the reading of the full book miserable. The characters were very basic with little unique quality than a regular story about adventure. They were flat and did not develop and weren't engaging. The theme was the smell of adventure, how original (sarcasm).
It's style was just event after event
Anne McLaughlin
May 02, 2009 Anne McLaughlin rated it it was amazing
This was one of those wonderful family sagas full of history and heartache. It has stark descriptions of the famine and its toll on the Irish, but also depicts the Irish courage, feistiness, stubbornness, and optimism in the face of absolute bleak desperation. I loved that it was full of Gaelic terms and the references to Irish stories and folklore. It wasn't the typical Irish coming to America story - it was more realistic, maybe because it focused on the two sisters and what they had to do for ...more
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The Book Travelers: March 2015 -- Galway Bay, by Mary Pat Kelly 7 4 Mar 30, 2015 07:26AM  
Goodreads Ireland: February-March Quarterly Irish Read: Galway Bay 50 56 Dec 18, 2013 05:46AM  
Goodreads Ireland: Galway Bay Spoiler Thread 11 36 Oct 26, 2012 10:38AM  
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