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The Walking People

3.82  ·  Rating details ·  1,094 ratings  ·  199 reviews
Greta Cahill never believed she would leave her village in the west of Ireland until she found herself on a ship bound for New York. Fifty years later, when the Ireland of her memory bears little resemblance to that of present day, she fears that it is still possible to lose all when she discovers that her children—with the best of intentions— have conspired to unite the w ...more
Hardcover, 416 pages
Published May 20th 2009 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
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Average rating 3.82  · 
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 ·  1,094 ratings  ·  199 reviews

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Corinne Edwards
While I've read a host of books about early 1900s immigration, The Walking People is a story about a different generation of immigrants -the Irish who came to America in the early 60s. Greta's family lives in a tiny, nearly abandoned town in Western Ireland, near the sea and not much else. Life during Greta's childhood was much the same way it had been for hundreds of years, they were warmed by a turf fire and ate by candlelight. 'Tinkers" or "Traveling People" walked the highways and made a liv ...more
I actually enjoyed listening to this. It was OK, but......

This is one of those books definitely improved by its narration, very well done by Sile Bermingham! Great Irish brogue, and the different women all sound unique. Still, when you look at the book as a whole, you are left rather flat. What does it give you? A "cute" telling of the Irish immigrant story in NYC. Not the early immigrants, but the ones that came in the 60s. Family life and friendship between workmates. What was the sandhog expe
Jeanette (Again)
This is Mary Beth Keane's first novel. I sincerely hope it doesn't turn out to be her only novel.

The prologue is dreadfully boring, which is unfortunate, but it's less than 20 pages. Aside from that, this book really captures a lot of truth about the immigrant experience and the flavor of Irish life. If you have Irish immigrant heritage (which I do not), I'd say this is a must-read, or at least a must-try.

The first half of the book takes place in Ireland, describing the poor rural upbringing o
Nov 15, 2010 rated it liked it
I really enjoyed this novel would liked to have given it 3 1/2 stars as feel it deserves more than 3.
Mar 19, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction
Imagine a story of children growing up in a poor rural area of a developing country, dealing with suspicions across ethnic divides, and intrigued by the arrival of electricity in a nearby town, who eventually migrate to America and make their lives there. Such a story could be full of clichés and stereotypes. But this author, instead, tells a story that is so unique and whose characters are so specific to themselves, and writes it so fluidly, that it is authentic. It must be real, even if it was ...more
Diane Webber-thrush
Feb 18, 2012 rated it it was amazing
I read this book maybe a year ago, and so many images from it have stuck with me. It is my favorite kind of book: sweeping epic about a culture that I didn't know before I picked up the book, in this case the tinkers of Ireland. The story follows one family from Ireland to New York. It's set in the early - to mid 20th century, but in that part of rural Ireland it was more like the 19th Century.
As a writer, Keane is vivid and lovely. Sentence-to-sentence this is just a beautiful book. Compelling
Mar 17, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Not a revolution, not a murder, just people put in their own life circumstances. Maybe it was the author, but I loved this book. I didn't want to put it down. Maybe it was the couple that Greta and Michael became, and the family they had. It was everything you'd want from a marriage and a family. Two people, coming from such dire circumstances, yet turning their lives into so much love and devotion. ...more
Mar 21, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Was a wonderful buck in the style of Maeve Binchey. The beginning setting of remote Galway in the 50s is memorable and beautifully detailed. Detailed, 3D characters. This book is set over fifty years and is a satisfying story of two sisters. I loved it.
May 19, 2009 rated it it was ok
This was a well-written and obviously well-researched book about of Ireland of the 1960's and the "traveller" community in general. The opening sections of the book that take place in Ireland are the best in terms of invoking a certain time and place, and developing characters in the Cahill family as well as Michael Ward.

But when the book shifts to New York and moves forward in time, the same lingering over details fades, and the details that do exist (i.e., watching All in the Family on TV in
J.S. Dunn
Aug 19, 2014 rated it liked it
3.5 There really ought to be half-stars available...

A touching story and well written. But. After the first 100 pages, its glorification of the mundane and prosaic bits of daily life becomes grating and tempts the reader to skip sections, though in doing so other important bits of the story might be missed. If all the minute details were semiotic it would be one thing, but the style became simply tedious.

For those who know little or nothing about Travellers, no doubt this novel is a surprise. Pr
I enjoyed this book, and initially thought it was going to be a five-star, top-ten-of-the-year sort of book. But as time went on, although the story remained interesting, and the cultural/historical information really did immerse you into the time and place, I found the story itself was quite predictable. Still, enjoyable.
Marilyn Docherty
Apr 26, 2020 rated it really liked it
I enjoyed this book.
It was interesting reading of the Irish culture & the characters brave decision to cross the Atlantic with little money & no job! Believable with a mix of highs & lows.
Julie Christine
Jun 06, 2009 rated it liked it
Recommended to Julie Christine by: Jeanette
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jan 15, 2011 rated it it was amazing
While Keane's book takes a bit of background to get into, the reader is soon immersed in the world of an Irish family during the 1950's to the present day. While the time era sounds recent and fresh, there is no connection of the rural Irish family to the trendy American ways across the ocean. As the family endures love, adventure, excitement, and heartache the reader follows the generation across the ocean to America, land of opportunity. Greta and her sister, along with a friend make their way ...more
May 06, 2015 rated it really liked it
Wasn't sure I would enjoy this book as much as I did Fever, the fascinating story of Typhoid Mary, but Walking People was very well written. Its vivid portrayal of both Irish and American life beginning in the late 1950's and continuing to the present was fascinating. Stories about emigration usually focus on much earlier periods in history, so this book covers an era not often described. The characters are well drawn and I was quickly caught up in their struggles to adjust to a new and very dif ...more
Paula Margulies
Jul 18, 2010 rated it it was amazing
A stunning debut novel! This book is a must-read for anyone who likes novels about Ireland and transatlantic travel. The Walking People tells the story of Greta Cahill, her sister, Johanna, and a boy named Michael Ward. The three of them come to America from a small town outside of Galway during the 1960's. The story covers the early years on the Irish coast with the travelers, or "walking people," New York in the 1960's - modern day, the Irish immigrant experience, and the sandhogs who built th ...more
Anita Johnson
Jan 09, 2017 rated it really liked it
This is an interesting look at rural Ireland in the late 1950's. Greta and Johanna Cahill, 14 and 16, board a ship to New York, accompanied by Michael Ward, a tinker's son. The long journey affects their lives forever. Over the next 50 years, Greta grows from the "goose" of a girl who could barely see into a woman who manages her family and working life while zealously guarding a secret that threatens to ruin her family.

The author did an outstanding job with research and with creating character
Robin Carlin
Apr 19, 2011 rated it it was amazing
The Walking People may become one of my top 5 all-time favorite books. Even as I write this, I am not sure how to articulate the reasons why I loved this book so much. I was sucked in at the Prologue. I was shocked that every 60-80 pages something would happen that I simply did not expect. I was impressed by the believability of the relationships and the amount of research that must have gone into this book regarding Ireland, the Irish workers in New York, and the evolution of technology. Defini ...more
Kathy Rogers
Jun 23, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Outstanding. Three young people emigrate from Ireland to New York in the mid-twentieth century. Events from their past keep them from all returning to their native land, yet the pull of family and homeland remains strong. Finally, the next generation brings about healing and understanding. A bad description, but it was so well written. I don't want to give the story away. Can't wait until the author writes another. ...more
Jul 28, 2009 rated it liked it
A slow starting book but well worth continuing. Lots of detail about the characters and their life in a dying Irish village. Once the two sisters and the "tinker" boy Michael get to New York their story becomes more interesting and quicker to read. The secret that Greta keeps from her children almost takes on a life of its own however, the expected denoument never happens. The ending was unexpected but still satisfying. A well written, worthwhile read! ...more
Jun 22, 2009 rated it it was amazing
I really enjoyed this story - I just fell in love with the Goosey Greta. I could NOT figure out the beginning of the book though (how it started) until the very end. I just kept reading and reading and thinking "so what was with that first chapter..." I love stories that make you fall in love with the characters, despite their flaws. ...more
Jan 16, 2010 rated it it was amazing
I couldn't put this book down after about 75 pages, and I was really sad when it was over. The author tells a very captivating story of Irish family life in a remote village on the far west coast where tragedy strikes and the two youngest girls eventually set sail for America and make their way in NYC. Rich character development, fascinating narrative, great writing! ...more
Jun 15, 2010 rated it it was amazing
After reading the prologue I was so uninterested that I almost returned the book to the librarty without finishing it. For some reason it just didn't grab me at the start. I'm sure glad I read a few pages more -- because I ended up loving the story! Engaging characters and a storyline that kept me wanting to know what happened next, all set in rural Ireland and New York. Lovely! ...more
Aug 20, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Great book. Satisfying ending without wrapping everything in a bow. Subtle, beautiful descriptions, especially of the tinkers and the sandhogs working under New York City. Can't wait to read the next one by Mary Beth Keane. ...more
Mar 24, 2009 rated it it was amazing
I really, really enjoyed reading this book. It's a family epic with a lot of Irish grit and i just couldn't put it down. Would recommend pretty much across the board ...more
Jun 28, 2009 rated it it was amazing
A wonderfully written (!!) book. I thoroughly enjoyed of those special books I'll think about often. ...more
Jul 02, 2009 rated it it was amazing
My best book of 2009 so far. Highly recommended.
Sep 15, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction
A great old-fashioned novel with great characterization -- read it.
Oct 09, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Loved learning about Ireland and getting a glimps into the life of an immigrants struggle. Would read again.
Aug 15, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Lovely written book.
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Mary Beth Keane attended Barnard College and the University of Virginia, where she received an MFA. She was awarded a John S. Guggenheim fellowship for fiction writing, and has received citations from the National Book Foundation, PEN America, and the Hemingway Society. She is the author of The Walking People, Fever, and most recently, Ask Again, Yes, which was a New York Times Best Seller. Both F ...more

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