Book Review: Nory Ryan’s Song, by Patricia Reilly Giff

nory_ryans_song_coverNory Ryan, the heart of her family with her songs and carefree spirit, spends her days frolicking on the coasts and country fields in Ireland. With her Dad gone fishing for half a year, and her mom passed away from childbirth, Nory Ryan does everything she can to hold her family together. The one thing her family could live on was their harvested potatoes. Every Irish man could rest assured that his family would be well fed, as long as they had fields of potatoes. That was, at least, until disaster struck.

The English government takes control over their land, and a terrible famine sweeps through the little town where Nory and her family live. Patricia Reilly Giff describes the smell of rotting potatoes as Nory wraps her nose and mouth in her shawl, and her sister bends over gagging as they work to save their crop.

Toward the end of the story, Nory is left all alone on their family’s farm in Ireland after she insists for her family to migrate to New York, America without her. Nory is very brave to be left all alone, and she is selfless to give the tickets to the rest of her family instead of herself.

I chose to read this book in preparation for a family trip to Ireland and England. I wanted to get a deeper appreciation for my grandpa’s Irish ancestors and a greater image in my head of Irish countryside, where so much hardship was endured. I also thought it was interesting that the author added some old Irish words such as madra, meaning dog. This book was very depressing because it was on the Great Potato Famine; however, Giff brought a great power to the Irish spirit in Nory, and I loved to read about her. This book is so important for all of us fortunate OC teens to read because it brings to light the fact that we are so very blessed to have a safe and happy neighborhood to call home.

I recommend this book to teen girls because Nory Ryan is a teen girl, just in a very different world. It was fascinating to see Nory’s story, and to imagine what life was like for her. Patricia Reilly Giff did an amazing job painting the picture, and if you like Nory Ryan’s Song, then you’ll love the sequel, At Maggie’s Door. Please feel free to comment on any one of the topics I touched on!

-Kelsey H., 10th grade

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