Picks and Pans Review: Galway Bay

updated 03/09/2009 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 03/09/2009 AT 01:00 AM EDT

by Mary Pat Kelly |

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Film director Kelly (2004's World War II drama Proud) fictionalizes stories from her great-great-grandmother's life in this Irish family saga that begins with the 19th-century potato famine. Her heroine, the feisty Honora Keeley, with her sister and their seven sons, escapes Ireland for a new life in the frontier town of Chicago. Along the way, her journey reveals some lesser-known historical facts, such as the contribution of the Irish to the Union army in the Civil War and the story of the Fenians and their failed attempt to invade Canada. While the leisurely pace might make readers a little impatient and some characters can seem like mouthpieces, Kelly's tale is so rousingly epic that it can't help but reach readers' hearts.

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