Generations was a labor of love inspired by a high school essay written by my cousin, Ann Finch. Entitled “Dynamite, Dust and Love”, it was a fictional tale about my grandparents, John Sanders and Nora Brooks, falling in love at first sight. I decided to build it up and stretch it out, and it became a tribute to my ancestors as well as the land of their ethnic origin.
It begins with Jonathan Sanders, a native of Armagh in Northern Ireland at the outset of the Battle of Ireland during the 11th century. I envisioned him as a woodworker, as Irish people were often named by their family trade in ancient times. I saw him as being patriotic and idealistic, as young Irishmen tend to be. He would have been loyal to Brian Boru, the Irish leader trying to unite the country against the oppression of Viking occupation and rival Gaelic warlords. Volunteering as a spy for King Brian, it enables him to infiltrate the different camps and give readers an in-depth glimpse into the factions involved in the great war. There is a strong romantic angle that permeates the entire novel (a JRD trademark), and the military conflict not only highlights the historic backdrop but brings Part One to a powerful climax.
Part Two introduces us to Ioan Sanders, a woodworker employed at the shipyards of Belfast during the late 1800’s shortly after the Potato Famine. It is a time of political unrest, and the British Empire struggles mightily to keep Ireland under its yoke. I envisioned Ioan as being familiar with the Molly Maguires, a notorious insurgent group. His love interest Sharon Connor is the daughter of a man targeted by the Mollies as a suspected British sympathizer. Ioan intercedes on behalf of Sharon against the Mollies but is forced to flee as the British Army close in on the seditionists. They wind up in Pennsylvania where the Connors have migrated, investing in the coal mining industry. It provides a perfect segue into exploring the struggles of Irish immigrants during these times. Ioan’s story is a tribute to these valiant people who made such a difference in American history.
My grandparents are under the spotlight in Part Three, the most authentic episodes of the saga. It was largely based on stories my mother, Marian Kidd “Sandy” Sanders, shared with me over the years. Nora and John were indeed among those who founded the now-extinct West Texas town of Bangs, Texas between the World Wars. I added a touch of dramatic flavor in bringing the Irish shantytown outside of the town square to life, as well as the melodrama detailing the railroad companies’ buyouts of rural landowners. It makes for exciting reading, and I hope I did justice to the brave, vibrant and charismatic couple my grandparents really were.
Much speculation over the decades centered around what my Mom would have been like if she had been born a man. Well, that’s how Part Four kicks off. His son, Johnny Sanders, meets and exceeds standards that I have yet to achieve. In fairness, readers can see that I have more than a passing familiarity with the worlds of music and boxing, as well as the underworld. My goal was to bring NYC of the Sixties to life as well as the Irish experience in Hell’s Kitchen. Many characters were based on people I knew, and I hope those recognized accept the loving compliment.
I’m hoping I gave the world an Irish-American family saga that glorifies the Irish people, their nation and their indomitable spirit. Along with that, I am proud to introduce readers to John and Nora Sanders, American pioneers who touched so many, many lives.
Reviews & media
GENRE: Historical fiction (Irish)
PRINT LENGTH: 364 pages
PUBLICATION DATE: April 28th, 2015
FORMAT: Kindle, paperback
Excerpt from the book
The young man awoke to what, up to then, would be the most terrible day of his life. He stared sightlessly at the ceiling for a long time before finally rising to wash himself with the cold water in the basin on the table, which he prepared just before bedtime, as was his custom. He dressed slowly, listening to the muted morning sounds emanating from the kitchen area of the room, realizing that little had changed as the household prepared for the trauma awaiting them.
He came out of his sleeping corner and joined his cousin Aileen by the fireplace. She fetched him a beer, watered down a bit in deference to his age but packed with nutrients. While not thirsty, he drank it down, knowing he would need its strength.
Misty-eyed, she managed to say softly, “He’s asked for you.” Misty-eyed, Aileen managed softly.
He nodded. Setting his wooden cup down on the table, he moved towards the rope bed where his grandfather lay.
“Jonathan,” the old man called weakly. “Is that you?”
“Yes, Grandda.” Jonathan came over to the bed and sat down on the small stool next to it. He was struck by the frailty of the man, who had been considered one of the strongest in Armagh many years ago. The consumption had taken everything out of him, and left only a shell of a man waiting only to end his trial and meet his Maker.