The Law of Dreams: A Novel
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Driven from the only home he has known during Ireland’s Great Hunger of 1847, Fergus O’Brien makes the harrowing journey from County Clare to America, traveling with bold girls, pearl boys, navvies, and highwaymen. Along the way, Fergus meets his three passionate loves–Phoebe, Luke, and Molly–vivid, unforgettable characters, fresh and willful.
Based on Peter Behrens’s own family history, The Law of Dreams is lyrical, emotional, and thoroughly extraordinary–a searing tale of ardent struggle and ultimate perseverance.
tamping the tobacco with her thumb. Perhaps she thought him a fool for turning down Ormsby’s offer. Looking at her profile, her brown cheeks, small nose, small mouth — the strong jaw and mess of dark reddish hair streaked and filigreed by the ocean sun — he wondered what she’d have done if Ormsby had offered her a clear chance, an opportunity. Would she have left him — easily, lightly — as she had along that road in Wales? Sheltered between the bulwark and the deckhouse, the wind cut very
loved to feel they were grabbing every scrap of wind. The buffalo robes were only a small part of Ormsby’s baggage. “I have all my silver and china down below, ready in canoe packs. Forty-two panes of glass sunk in molasses barrels — I’ll own the first glass windows in the Athabaska country. I only hope I reach Montreal in time to catch the brigade.” “Are your friends in America?” Molly asked. “My friends are dead, miss.” After he had played out his hand and lost, the old man sat back puffing
Fergus saw pauper women already fanning a fire. The miller’s cart, driven by a frightened-looking boy, rumbled over the flattened gate and into the workhouse yard, dragoons crowding in behind, their massive horses creaking with gear and leather. Murty Larry bowed low, sweeping his arm toward the open gateway and the snowy street outside, in a gesture of magnanimous invitation. Fergus looked back at the fire where a dragoon was piercing sacks with his saber and pauper women were already sluicing
licking her blood. The Cliff IT WAS THE LAST SUNDAY before the Pay and he was grazing the tip horses along the road when he saw her walking out from camp. He’d never seen her away from the shanty before. Muck did not like her to venture. McCarty said the road was death for girls, with all the famished tramps and gypsies. She was a solitary figure, wearing an old bonnet and carrying a basket. As she came closer he saw she was barefoot. “Where are you off to?” “Gather seabirds’ eggs.”
for a passage. Warm clothes. Extra rations — you can’t make it on what they feed.” “We’ll go down the line, another contract. London tunnels. Soon we’d have enough.” Her eyes were unreadable. “He’d find me on the line.” “He wouldn’t.” “You don’t know Muldoon. You’re no good next to a fellow like that. You’re only a boy.” “I’d take care of you, Molly.” “Muck’s not so bad — he brought me out of Ireland. I was living like a finch when he found me.” “He beats you.” “I can stand it.” “He