WV Book Team: Local authors recall Ireland in story, poems and photos

By By M. Lynne Squires
WV Book Team

Ireland. It’s a country many dream of visiting, their dreams filled with thatched-roof cottages, ginger-haired men in elbow-patched wool coats and lassies with curls of auburn hair tumbling down their backs.

Perhaps thoughts of experiencing Irish coffee, tankards of stout, Irish stew or black pudding on Irish soil are appealing. If you are among those longing wistfully for Ireland, check out these recently released books:

“Looking for Ireland — An Irish-Appalachian Pilgrimage” (Mountain State Press), by Huntington author and photographer Laura Treacy Bentley, is a visual and literary delight. If you are a lover of good poetry, you will be moved by Bentley’s words.

Bentley encapsulates vivid word pictures in short, yet thoughtful verse. In the poem “Went Missing,” she writes:

“Silence steals from horizon to dark horizon. I lift smooth rocks from a limestone wall to enter a strange field. Stone by stone I put them back, weighing the very heft of time. Closing the gate …”

If poems aren’t your cup of Irish tea (with cream, hold the sugar), the photographs will capture you. Bentley’s eye for composition is superb. Her use of shadow and light captures moments in time that stay with you long after the book is closed.

West Virginia and Ireland share as many similarities as differences. Size, climate, terrain and population are major parallels between the two English-speaking areas. Although her expressive work is representative of both, you will be hard-pressed to draw the distinction.

Coffee table books are wonderful formats for work such as this. But this book delivers the same impact with a couple of significant differences. It’s infinitely more portable and easily affordable.

Bentley’s goal was to share her words and pictures from time spent on each side of the pond in a format many can enjoy. She hits the mark with this delightful volume. Let’s hope there are more books of this caliber from Bentley.

Bentley is also the author of “The Silver Tattoo,” a psychological thriller set in Ireland, and “Lake Effect,” a poetry collection. Her work has been widely published in the United States and Ireland in literary journals such as The New York Quarterly, Art Times, Poetry Ireland Review, Antietam Review, Kestrel and numerous others.

She received a Fellowship Award for Literature from the West Virginia Commission on the Arts, and her poetry has been featured on the websites of A Prairie Home Companion, Poetry Daily and O Magazine. She served as the writer in residence for the Marshall University Writing Project and taught creative writing at the 2013 West Virginia Governor’s School for the Arts.

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For lovers of historical fiction, Patricia Hopper delivers with “Corrib Red” (Cactus Rain Publishing). A Morgantown writer hailing from Dublin, her work is infused with the authentic flavor of Ireland. From the peat bogs and cottages of the commoners, to mansions and finery of the gentry, Hopper deftly weaves a story of love, betrayal, deceit, family ties and distinction between the classes.

Set in the 1880s in rural Ireland, it is centered on the O’Donovan family estate, Kilpara. Threading through the story is the escalating political tensions for Irish Home Rule.

The story follows Grace, the younger of two O’Donovan teenage sisters. Grace’s sister, Deidre, has just returned from a year abroad studying art in Switzerland. The outgoing Deidre leaves as budding young woman and returns a quiet shadow of her former self.

Of the age to be betrothed, she is courted by several bachelors befitting her family’s status. Grace is horrified when Deidre is engaged, seemingly against her will, to Cecil. Cecil presents a loving front, but Grace knows he has his own agenda.

Grace seeks to understand her sister’s odd behavior and seemingly reticent acceptance of Cecil’s plans for their future. Deidre is hiding a secret, and Cecil learns of it, thus cementing his place in her world through the promise of his silence. The O’Donovan family wrestles with truth and deceit, denial, and tacit acceptance. The situation they find themselves in tests the strength of their family bonds.

“Corrib Red” is the second in a three-book family saga. The first book, “Kilpara,” follows the previous generations of the O’Donovan family across the Atlantic and back in a battle for their family home. Yet “Corrib Red” also stands alone as a wonderful story steeped in Ireland’s history and culture.

Patricia Hopper Patteson earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees from West Virginia University, where she received the Waitman Barbe Creative Writing Award and the Virginia Butts Sturm Award. Her work has appeared in Amore Magazine, Appalachian Heritage, Hamilton Stone Review and Ireland’s Own, among many others.

M. Lynne Squires’ latest book is “Mid-Century Recipes from Cocktails to Comfort Food.”

Check it out at mlynne.com.

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