Sunday, October 24, 2010

Donegal: Irish Justice Review

Donegal: Irish Justice by James Lower

(from the back of the book)
In this historical novel, the Ku Klux Klan thought the town of Donegal, Indiana, would be the perfect place to organize a new chapter. They intended to run out the blacks, Jews, Irish, Catholics, and immigrants so they could gain economic control of the area. What the Klan did not count on was the determination of an Irish Catholic baker who was determined to save his town.

Historical facts are skillfully woven into this absorbing story of conflict that pits former good friends, neighbors, and customers against one another while struggling with a declining business environment, family issues, and religious tenets.

Lower does a wonderful job of setting the scene here. Donegal comes to life and you get to know the characters. He shows you their lives and makes the story not just about the Klan but about the people. By showing their past was well as the present he gives context and depth to them. You get to live with these people for a while and that makes the story a much more personal one. I like that he does not focus on the Klan to the exclusion of all the other issues and problems in these people’s lives. The Klan is part of the story but it is very much a story about the people of Donegal. It is also an interesting look at the Ku Klux Klan itself. It is an insidious force that starts to take over the town making promises that sound good and claiming to believe in moral values. In a time when times are hard, where the people are scraping by and they have come through so much already it can almost make you understand why people are drawn to the promises that the Klan gives but without ever making excuses for them. And knowing the history and the strength of the people you can also see why some have the need to stand and fight to save the town no matter what. There is enough tension to keep you wanting to know more and enough suspense to keep you guessing and enough of a twist at the end to surprise you. The fact that it is based on real events just makes it that much more interesting.

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