For Lunch Lit today we are serving up The O’Briens excerpt written by Peter Behrens. Every family has their own story, their unique history. This book beautifully tells the story of the O’Briens. An unforgettable saga of love, loss, and exhilarating change spanning half a century in the lives of a restless family, from the author of the acclaimed novel The Law of Dreams.
The O’Briens is a family story unlike any told before, a tale that pours straight from the heart of a splendid, tragic, ambitious clan. In Joe O’Brien—grandson of a potato-famine emigrant, and a backwoods boy, railroad magnate, patriarch, brooding soul—Peter Behrens gives us a fiercely compelling man who exchanges isolation and poverty in the Canadian wilds for a share in the dazzling riches and consuming sorrows of the twentieth century.
When Joe meets Iseult Wilkins in Venice, California, the story of their courtship—told in Behrens’s gorgeous, honed style—becomes the first movement in a symphony of the generations. Husband and wife, brothers, sisters-in-law, children and grandchildren, the O’Briens engage unselfconsciously with their century, and we experience their times not as historical tableaux but as lives passionately lived. At the heart of this clan—at the heart of the novel—is mystery and madness grounded in the history of Irish sorrow. The O’Briens is the story of a man, a marriage, and a family, told with epic precision and wondrous imagination.
You can visit Peter Behrens site to see a wonderful photo slideshow that inspired his writing for this book.
“Streets flashed by in swords of light, offering glimpses of the shiny East River. Women with bare arms leaned out the windows of tenements, panting in the heat, so near he could almost touch them. There was something charged and warm about such relentless, impersonal intimacy; hundreds of people eating breakfast in their tiny kitchens and no one bothering to look up. The train crossed the black ribbon of the Harlem River, more or less saltwater, Joe figured, and therefore an arm of the sea, which joined everything and separated everything: the rim of the world.”