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Friday, June 21, 2019

Decanted Truths by Melanie Forde

In 2015, I read Melanie Forde's Hillwilla, a book that I very much enjoyed, so I was eager to read this one.  Decanted Truths is very different from Hillwilla and depicts the assimilation of Irish families as a process that takes a couple of generations.

It is easy to forget how unwelcome Irish immigrants were and how the only jobs they were offered were menial.  Many who came after 1845 (the potato blight famine) were desperately poor.  
 It is estimated that as many as 4.5 million Irish arrived in America between 1820 and 1930.
Between 1820 and 1860, the Irish constituted over one third of all immigrants to the United States. In the 1840s, they comprised nearly half of all immigrants to this nation.  Source
The Harrigan and Gavagan families arrived in the 19th century, but the book opens in the with the characters in the 1920's and focuses on Leah Gavagan.  Leah, an orphan taken in by her Aunt Theo, doesn't quite fit anywhere and struggles with "the sight" and episodes that make some uncomfortable in her presence.  

The novel then takes a turn to examine Margaret Harrigan and events in the late 19th that have lasting effects in the lives of both Harrigans and Gavagans.

The truths decanted in the histories of the two families are not always welcome and secrets are eventually revealed that have been kept hidden for decades.  

A compelling collection of characters and an intriguing saga of families, Decanted Truths depicts individuals who meet all of the changes and difficulties life throws at them.  As in real life, some meet these situations with more grace and fortitude than others.  

NetGalley/Books Go Social
Literary/Historical Fiction.  2018.  Print length:  416 pages. 


  1. I haven't read many books that talk about the Irish immigrant experience. This sounds good. Especially her character, Leah.

  2. It was an interesting mix of characters and secrets. :)

  3. I love to read about Ireland's history since half of my relatives and all of my husband's ancestors came from there, as recently as my husband's grandparents. I love that you look for books off my radar because I get tired of seeing all the typical new releases/arcs on everyone's blog. Thanks Jen, I'll jot this title down.

    1. This isn't really about Ireland's history, but about children and grandchildren of immigrants to America after the Irish diaspora. It is also about class distinctions even among the Irish, and of course, there is Leah with the second sight! :)

  4. Ooh, I love a book with family secrets! So true that we forget how unwelcome this Irish were in the US. For a country made up of immigrants, the US has historically been very hostile to its immigrant populations, for sure.

    1. Exactly. America has really been less than welcoming to immigrants, especially those who have come in large waves as a result of fleeing from famine, war, pogroms, or prejudice. Maybe it is the fear of "the many" that sets our hackles up, even if we are descended from those who were in those waves.

      But the book doesn't concentrate on that aspect--I tend to think in terms of immigration now and then. Decanted Truths looks at individuals and their actions, secrets, and consequences.