Friday, June 5, 2009

Call Me Kate: Meeting the Molly Maguires by Molly Roe Book Review



The year 1862 was a tumultuous one for the people who lived in north eastern Pennsylvania. The onset of the Civil War caused suffering to the coal workers and their families. Poor mine conditions and no social assistance programs left families destitute. Hardest hit were the Irish families who had fled the famine in Ireland to carve a better life for themselves only to find life harsh in the new world.

Fourteen year old Katie McCafferty is the daughter of a poorly paid coal miner. Life is hard and children are often forced to work to aid their families. Katie is no exception. First, she works as a housekeeper for a priest and later as a maidservant in the mansion of a wealthy family.

Despite all the hardships, the Irish community is closely knit and helpful. Mine accidents are common and families lose fathers, sons, and even grandsons. Katie is no exception. When her own father is left paralyzed, the family faces severe financial hardship.

Katie McCafferty has a friend who is in dire trouble. His name is Con and they have been bonded since childhood. When Con joins the Molly Maguires, a radical Irish organization to fight the rising anti-Irish sentiments and abuse of the times, she learns his life is in danger. In order to save him, she disguises herself as a man and joins the all-male Molly Maguires as a draft resister named Dominick.

Call Me Kate: Meet the Molly Maguires takes the reader into a detailed, historically accurate, journey of life of a young girl who lived in the coal regions of Northeastern Pennsylvania at the onset of the Civil War.

The story is easily read, written for young adult and adult readers alike. Molly Roe brings to life the dangers of the mines in the 1800’s and its ruthless owners. She tells of how Irish immigrants, whether American citizens or not, were forced to fight in the Civil War.

What I enjoyed most about Molly Roe’s novel is its uniqueness. It swept me into an era I was unfamiliar with, bringing to life it’s sights and smells, even its tragedies. Although Kate is not a true historical figure, she is molded after strong Irish women immigrants of the time. I highly recommend this novel, not only for the good story, but for its brilliant research.