Life Sentences (Hardcover)
"Poignant....powerful."--New York Times
One Irish family's fight for survival makes for an unforgettable tale of love, abandonment, hunger, and redemption. At just sixteen, Nancy Martin leaves the small island of Cape Clear for the mainland, the only member of her family to survive the effects of the Great Famine. Finding work in a grand house on the edge of Cork City, she is irrepressibly drawn to the charismatic gardener Michael Egan, sparking a love affair and a devastating chain of events that continues to unfold over three generations.
Spanning more than a century, Billy O'Callaghan's weaves together the journey of an Irish family determined against all odds to be free. In 1920, Nancy's son Jer has lived through battles of his own as a soldier in the Great War. Now drunk in a jail cell, he struggles to piece together where he has come from, and who he wants to be. And in the early 1980s, Jer's youngest child Nellie is nearing the end of her life in a council house just steps away from her childhood home; remembering the night when she and her family stole back something that was rightfully theirs, she imagines what lies ahead for those who will survive her. This moving portrait of life in Ireland is set in the village where O'Callaghan's family has lived for generations, and is partly based on stories told by his parents and grandparents. His writing is imbued with lived experience and hard-earned truths, creating a novel so rich in life and empathy it is impossible to let go of his characters. An ambitious and lyrical family saga, this novel confirms Billy O'Callaghan as one of the finest living Irish writers.