The Story of Brooklyn

The book behind the Academy Award nominated film tracks the immigrant's story...

This article, written by Chris Delaney, appears on Huff Post Books.

An American Dream: The Novel Behind the Academy Award

Every immigrant experience — be it Mexican, Italian or Syrian — is both the journey to an unfamiliar place and a pining for home. Colm Tóibín beautifully captures this experience in his novel Brooklyn, which tells the story of Eilis Lacey.

A young Irish woman in the 1950s, Eilis (pronounced “Eye-lish”), with the help of her older sister and Father Flood, a kindly priest, is able to travel to an Irish women’s boarding house in Brooklyn, New York. After the strenuous boat ride across the Atlantic, Eilis finds work in a department store, and with the help of Father Flood she enrolls in night school with aspirations to become a bookkeeper.

In a time when intercontinental communication meant sending and receiving letters that took weeks or months to arrive, the first few months of isolation in New York feel like a burden to Eilis. The winters are much too cold, and she longs to hear the voice of her sister back home and to wake up in her own room in her mother’s house.

It isn’t long before she finds a taste of home in the Irish dances put on by Father Flood and the church. On a fateful night out with some of the boarders, she meets a handsome Italian-American man named Tony. As we see their relationship unfold over the course of the next few months, we meet an Eilis who is less lonely and afraid. With Tony at her side she goes to the beach and a Brooklyn Dodgers game. She meets Tony’s family — everything is going well. She is settling in. She and Tony are making plans. Brooklyn begins to feel like her future.

Then Eilis receives some terrible news from back home. Read more at Huff Post Books

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