Beyond the Western Sea: Book One - The escape from Home
Ages 12 and up
Scholastic, 1996, 0-531-09513-4
For Maura and her brother Patrick, life in their homeland of Ireland has become so hard that they are not sure that they will be able to survive much longer. Certainly it seems that they will soon be homeless for everyone is saying that Sir James Kirkle’s agent is soon going to be coming to their village to knock down the houses and to drive out the people. Stricken by famine and disease, thousands are leaving Ireland for America, hoping that they will be able to find a better life in the New World. Some months ago the children’s father joined this exodus but nothing has been heard from him and their Mother has quite given up hope that they ever will. Then they get a letter; they are to go to America to join their father at last.
In London Laurence Kirkle, Lord Kirkle’s son, is getting beaten. His brother Albert is determined to blacken his younger brother’s name and Lord Kirkle refuses to listen to what Laurence has to say. In a fit of rage and misery Laurence decides that he cannot stay in his father’s house any longer and that he must run away. What about America? Hasn’t he heard that younger sons are not treated badly there?
Soon the two sets of children are both headed for Liverpool where they hope to catch a boat to America. Unfortunately they both are the targets of unscrupulous people who have no qualms about making use of the children in any way that they can. Pursued by police, private detectives, criminals and others, the children meet up quite by chance. Perhaps if they help one another they can survive what lies ahead of them.
Gripping and with a definite Dickensian flavor to it, this book often paints a very grim picture of what life was like in England and Ireland in the mid 1800’s. Children and others who are easy ‘marks’ are exploited by ruthless people whose only interest is in lining their own pockets, and the gap between the rich and the poor is an enormous insurmountable gulf. Avi spins a wonderful tale against the backdrop of a fascinating period in world history.
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