Book Review: Dear Inmate
Reviewed by Madeline Barbush
A thrilling account of one woman’s courage being tested and tortured
Dear Inmate, Book two of the Paddy Series, bursts with energy and excitement from its first page. The fire has not gone out of Rosaleen, and her mission to fight for the rights of her people, the Irish, as well as the Black people of Lowell, Massachusetts has grown even stronger.
Thrilling and powerful, Dear Inmate triumphantly tells the story of an underdog fighting for what she knows is right in a time when it was difficult for anyone, let alone an Irish woman, to stand up for the underprivileged.
The Paddy Series is set in 1850s Massachusetts. In this second book, Rosaleen and her friends must counter the acts of hate and violence of a group called the Know-Nothings, an anti-foreigner American Party. Mayor Ward encourages the Party and Rosaleen’s hope to free the town of its prejudice is directly threatened by men like him.
In the beginning of the novel, Rosaleen feels she has failed because she has not brought about the change she hoped she would by now. Around her, many Irish people are resentful of Black people and the abolitionists are equally resentful of the Irish. With every forward step Rosaleen takes, she is forced to take two back, and it appears that she will never rid herself of this dreadful feeling of failure.
Injustice is a recurring theme, and the author knows how to effortlessly create conflict directly related to Rosaleen’s main objective: peace. Rosaleen is a beacon of hope, but so much of it seems beyond her powers. There is this fight in her that keeps us, the readers, rooting for her.
When the Fugitive Slave Act comes about, it forces men like George Moore, an escaped slave, to uproot their lives and flee to avoid being kidnapped by their previous masters. Rosaleen tries to work to pass the Personal Liberty Law to ban those in power from helping these slave owners, but she simply cannot do it alone. She may have her select friends, as well as her husband Emmett to back her, but the rest of her people, the Irish, are treated so unfairly and have their own struggle, that it seems impossible to call upon them for their allegiance.
Her determination is ultimately tested when she finds out just how deep the hatred runs in Lowell’s leaders. Rosaleen is warned by friends that her bravery could cause more harm than good, as we eagerly read on to find out if she will poke the bear or let it sleep.
Boyle’s story is timeless. Rosaleen is alluring to those of us who wish to be so brave. Her character is admirable without being turned into an untouchable hero. She pushes through in a humanistic way, oftentimes questioning if what she is doing is inherently right, or if she has lost her way. Boyle makes it clear that our protagonist is sturdy, and we believe in her, but panic often sets into her being. It’s in those moments when Rosaleen is lost that we find ourselves most in her.
Dear Inmate takes a magnifying glass to this specific time and place in history. An artist, an author, should never stop taking a closer look at their subject, and Boyle gives us not only an in-depth account of life in Massachusetts in the mid-1800s, but also a character study of a young woman determined to stay on track of what she believes to be good. I recommend this book to those who are looking for a thrilling story that gives a fresh interpretation of the fight for justice and freedom.
Book One: Signed, a Paddy
Genre: Historical Fiction
Print Length: 410 pages
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