*** 1/2 The Law of Dreams By Peter Behrens
A Homeric journey, of sorts.
The Irish Potato Famine of the mid-1840s killed an estimated half a million people and dislocated a million more. The Law of Dreams, inspired by the author's family history, puts a human face on this widespread poverty, famine, disease, and displacement. Fergus O'Brien, a teenager on a tenant farm in 1846 Ireland, witnesses the plague devastate the countryside and his ill family burn alive. The cruelty of strangers spurs a Homeric-style journey in which Fergus suffers in a workhouse, joins a band of outlaws that attacks the farm on which his father worked, joins a cattle drive to Dublin, sails to Liverpool, works the rail lines in Wales, and takes on a lover. After a perilous rediscovery of life, Fergus sets his sight on America's great possibilities.
Steerforth. 394 pages. $24.95. ISBN: 1586421174
Washington Post **** 1/2
"The Law of Dreams is a fearsome story of such prolonged agony and unquenchable spirit that you can't escape till the final page abandons you to astonished silence.... In this extraordinary novel Behrens conveys a kind of visceral comprehension of the events that only one who survived them could surpass." RON CHARLES
Globe and Mail [Toronto] ****
"The Law of Dreams, a very good novel indeed, is almost hostile to supplying information about historical incidents or pop-psychology insights into any ethnic group.... The prose is frequently thrilling and always arresting." CHARLES FORAN
"Fergus's Atlantic crossing is one of thegreat set pieces in The Law of Dreams, all the more remarkable because we've seen it before, in almost every chronicle of the Irish diaspora.... Behrens has fashioned a beautiful idiom for his book, studded with slippery archaisms and mournful, musical refrains." JAMES MARCUS
Providence Journal *** 1/2
"In this cinematic novel...