The Law of Dreams and The O’Briens are connected. The first novel is a story from my great-great grandfather’s generation; the other is from my grandfather’s era. They are both “family stories” though fictionalized: based on family history, family stories, family myth. The character Joe in The O’Briens is based on my grandfather. The character Fergus from The Law of Dreams is based on my great-great grandfather.
My grandfather “Joe” was 17 when “Fergus” died; I was 17 when my grandfather died (that’s how close we are to the Irish Famine — we can almost reach across to touch hands of that generation). I had to make up a lot of Fergus’ story because the facts of his journey were lost: all I knew was the bare outlines of geography and history and emigration.
In The O’Briens, Fergus is never named, but he is referred to on one of the early pages as Joe’s grandfather who had “an appetite for geography and change” and whose life and death is shrouded in mystery . . . he’d been a “buffalo hunter in Ruperts Land;” a horse trader; he may or may not have been murdered in Texas, or drowned at Cape Horn.
Ireland is also a connection between these two novels. Fergus, in TheLaw of Dreams, comes out of Ireland. Joe is the grandson of the Famine refugee, and has very little sentimental feeling for Ireland. In fact, he even tells his brother Grattan, who wants to return to fight in the Irish war of independence, that he, Joe, “doesn’t give a rat’s ass for Ireland.” Yet the family remains very Irish in some of its ways: it’s vestigal Catholicism; Frankie’s belief in the “second sight” — the ability to see into the future — that she shares with her “Black Irish” father.
Note: Just a reminder, Anansi has been kind enough to give me a copy of The O’Briens to give away. To enter your name in the draw, just leave a comment on this post, or on yesterday’s post telling me where your family is from and where in the world you would settle if you had the choice. Please also leave your email address, so we can contact you if you win. I’ll pick a random winner on June 13th.