Visiting the island of her ancestors for the very first time, American midwife Brigid seeks sanctuary. It may now be the mid-20th century but progress in the remote Irish community seems to have stalled somewhere around a hundred years earlier; there’s no electricity, phones, shops or amenities on this unforgiving little island. The stalwart remaining residents of St Brigids are dwindling in numbers and have been resolutely advised by mainland authorities that the end is near. The entire population of St Brigids to be relocated.
Brigid has arrived with a personal agenda in mind but she must be patient. It will take awhile before the islanders will give up the location of their most prized secret – St Brigids Well. Widowed Brigid is desperate for a baby and the healing waters of the well she hopes will help her overcome what she regards as the unacceptable reality of her infertility.
Rose and Emer are two sisters who married two brothers and have lived on the island their lives. Their personas have been shaped by the harsh environments yet their spiritual lives cannot be disentangled by the everyday drudgery of child raising and back breaking domestic work. Emer has always known that her little family is on borrowed time and that the good people, the fairy folk, intend to steal her only child, the other-wordly Niall. Having herself survived a childhood abduction attempt, moody Emer now lives cagily with her secret ability to lay on hands. Emer has long been desperate to find another like her to share the burden and now she has been found.
It took a bit of a mental time shift to conceive of such a community being quite so backward in the 1950’s, remote location or not. The reluctance of the island folk to join mainstream life with all its conveniences is just another factor in this eerie book of jealousy, Celtic witchery, love and hope. Not quite a mystery work and perhaps being more of a historical drama, THE STOLEN CHILD references real islands and communities that were abandoned last century to either the encroaching ocean, progress or reasons unknown. Make no mistake, the setting, events and lives in this novel are bleak and difficult to read of without being desperately sorry for anyone who had to live this life way back when.
The stories of St Brigid, woman/saint/crusader are hauntingly fascinating and the power of her influence still being exerted on this island gives a claustrophobic feeling to the narrative. These families are trapped by many things other than the geographic location of the island with its rough seas and inclement weather. They all carry the burden that their ancestors would wish them to remain working the land and raising their families on the island of St Brigids. That weight of the past is a constant in THE STOLEN CHILD. St Brigids initially was occupied by a pious all-female community of nuns, paired off under God to each other into life long relationships, with no need for anything other than the comfort of each other and their harsh but beautiful world beside the sea.
THE STOLEN CHILD has been beautifully and respectfully written, weaving the folklore of the region over an immersive story about the ties that bound people to each other and to place.