Her marriage having failed after a series of miscarriages and having packed in her job as a lawyer, Anna is returning from a trip to Ireland when she gets the news that her brother has been in a terrible car accident and is barely clinging to life. Worse yet, the accident happened as he was on his way to New Jersey to get teenaged his son out of jail. Springing her sullen nephew and breaking the news of his father's critical condition falls to the jet-lagged Anna and she takes the unommunicative teen home to her house, where she hasn't even unpacked yet. In the middle of the night, she hears a noise, goes to investigate and finds Joseph going through her suitcase. As she reaches for him, he touches the cloth that an odd woman in Ireland gave to her and immediately both of them are sucked into darkness. Upon waking, Anna is injured and alone. She is also more than 150 years in the past in Ireland. Now she must find Joseph and figure out how to get them both back to their own time.
Told in alternating chapters, with Anna or Joe narrating in turn, Sheehan has captured the reality of rural Ireland before the Famine. Her native Irish characters and the landowning Anglo-Irish gentleman are worlds apart in all the ways that they should be. The decision to have Anna land with the poor but cautiously welcoming native Irish and to have the immature, surly teen end up in the home of the wealthy Anglo-Irish was inspired. It highlighted Joe's inability to make the best decisions and his willingness to be flattered. He was a typical teen, even if he was thrust backwards in time. Anna, on the other hand, learned to be grateful for the gifts she did have, even if a baby was not one of them, and the value of a deep and abiding friendship.
This was a light and entertaining book with a very bittersweet ending. The themes of love and family and healing the wounds of the past are very much woven throughout the narrative and through each and every character, major and minor. It was easy to read, taking only a few hours from start to finish and I never tired of the characters. And while the romantic in me might have wanted a different ending, the one it had was appropriate and fitting and ultimately hopeful. Don't be misled by the cover into thinking that Irish wolfhounds are more important than they are here. That particular thread seemed a bit frayed and only mentioned occasionally. The other thread that is also important to the story but underplayed is that of the culture of violence in Anna's family. If Anna and Joseph are in the past to make the future better, a more in depth background to their complicated relationships with their fathers would have been helpful. Overall though, this was a nice book and one that fans of time travel will likely enjoy. Historical fiction fans who don't mind a modern sensibility inserted into their stories (on purpose, not unintentionally) will also be happy reading this book.
Thanks to Book Club Girl and Avon Books for providing me with a review copy.