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52 Books in 52 Weeks: Brooklyn by Colm Toibin

My choice for this week, Brooklyn by Colm Toibin, was somewhat biased; based in Enniscorthy in county Wexford in Ireland, this novel definitely appe

aled to my love for all things Irish. The story centers on a young girl, Eilis Lacey, who makes the life-changing decision to move to America, specifically Brooklyn. Leaving behind her widowed mother, her older sister, and her hometown (which she had never left), Eilis takes on a completely new and foreign life working in a big-city department store. As a college freshman, I found myself really connecting with her character’s situation. In one particular scene, Eilis’ mother admits, in response to a friend’s casual inquiry, “Oh, it’ll kill me when she goes.” This small exchange really resonated with me as I recalled that tense time right before leaving for college, the excitement meshed with nostalgia and just a little guilt. 

Toibin’s characterization of Eilis, though unassuming and somewhat passive, is never negative or condescending; instead, the reader can see a clear change in Eilis as she takes on her new job, night classes, and the loneliness of starting her life over in a completely foreign world. While Toibin writes, “she was a ghost in this room, in the streets on the way to work, on the shop floor,” he concludes Eilis’ story with somewhat of a bittersweet retribution for the main character that comes about organically and refreshingly.

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