Brooklyn by Colm Toibin immersed me in the world of 1950′s immigrants. Eilis had no decent job prospects in Enniscorthy, a poor, small Irish town several years after World War Two. Her older sister Rose arranges for Father Flood, an Irish priest that now lives in Brooklyn New York, to sponser her as an immigrant to his parish in America. Eilis endures a difficult ship crossing, the trials of fitting in with other single woman in a boarding house, and boring work in a ladies’ department store. Eilis falls for an an Italian American plumber, not the ideal mate, and then a death calls her home to Ireland. The conclusion is devastating as Eilis is torn between two countries and two men.
We are able to adapt to a new life in a new culture many times with relative ease…out of sight, out of mind. Then when we go back home we adjust so quickly it’s as if we never left. The feeling of guilt can wash over us as we realize the people we have left and wonderful times we have forgotten. I found my thoughts directed toward this paradox as I finished reading Brooklyn.