Synopses & Reviews
From the national bestselling and highly acclaimed author of
The Outside Boy comes the deeply moving story of two mothers—witty, self-deprecating Majella, who is shocked by her entry into motherhood in modern-day New York, and her ancestor, tough and terrified Ginny Doyle, whose battles are more fundamental: she must keep her young family alive during Ireland’s Great Famine.
After the birth of her daughter Emma, the usually resilient Majella finds herself feeling isolated and exhausted. Then, at her childhood home in Queens, Majella discovers the diary of her maternal ancestor Ginny—and is shocked to read a story of murder in her family history.
With the famine upon her, Ginny Doyle fled from Ireland to America, but not all of her family made it. What happened during those harrowing years, and why does Ginny call herself a killer? Is Majella genetically fated to be a bad mother, despite the fierce tenderness she feels for her baby? Determined to uncover the truth of her heritage and her own identity, Majella sets out to explore Ginny’s past—and discovers surprising truths about her family and ultimately, herself.
Praise for The Outside Boy
“[A] deeply moving and elegiac look at a vanishing culture…gorgeously written and an implicit celebration of Irish storytelling.” —Booklist (starred review)
“In Hibernian society, there’s hardly a creature lower than the Irish tinker, a nomadic group ’tis said was driven into a barren country by the fundamentalist Cromwell to starve. Regardless, the modern diminutive hero Christy, in Jeanine Cummins’ gloriously poetic novel, will burrow his way into your heart. It’s not often I hug a book, but with moist eyes and beginnings of a song in my heart, I followed Christy’s journey from a death to hopeful life. Read this lovely book and you will hug yourself.” —Malachy McCourt, bestselling author of Malachy McCourt’s History of Ireland
“The Outside Boy is a poignant and magical tale about the travelling people in Ireland, a way of life all but vanished. Cummins captures that world in pitch-perfect prose, charming and beguiling till the story nearly breaks your heart.” —Keith Donohue, author of The Stolen Child
“The Outside Boy is such a powerful read. I identified so strongly with this story of a strange and gorgeous and vanishing way of life. It’s an adventure and, yes, a eulogy, but it’s also a full-throated song of praise. I loved it.” —Sherman Alexie, National Book Award–winning author of The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian
“Even before you come to care about Jeanine Cummins’ rich and intricately drawn characters, before you become enmeshed in her skillfully tangled plot lines about the hard and wondrous task of mothering children in times both catastrophic and ordinary…Before any of that, this is what you have to look forward to: the first page, Ms. Cummins’ luminous prose, and that feeling we’re all hoping to find when we sit down to read: ‘This is it—a book I’m going to love.’”—Carolyn Parkhurst, author of The Dogs of Babel
and The Nobodies Album
“The Crooked Branch explores motherhood, holding onto sanity as life adjusts with a new baby, tilling into that always rich ground of mothers and daughters. Beginning in the famine of Ireland and ending in present-day New York, the story gathers momentum and weight as it unfolds, like watching a freight train thunder along the rails filled with the priceless things of life. As heartbreaking as it is heartening, the story of mothers and what they will do for their babies, touches all the tender places with exquisite timing. Jeanine Cummins is such a good writer. Can't wait to read what she writes next!”—Jo-Ann Mapson, author of Solomon's Oak and Finding Casey “What an entertaining and moving novel! Though I’ve long known my own ancestors left Ireland because of the devastating potato famine, I never knew much about the history until now. Cummins begins with the utterly relatable Majella, a witty New Yorker struggling with new motherhood and its secret isolation; and sweeps us across the ocean and through time to Ginny, a desperate Irish mother doing her best to support her family. Cummins weaves an exploration of the fierce, primal love of motherhood that connects us all through generations.”—Margaret Dilloway, author of How to Be an American Housewife “Jeanine Cummins knows that there are stories beneath the stories, and she uses this brilliant knowing to weave a tale that is lyrical, emotional and often funny. This extraordinary novel reminds us how motherhood can make us feel as though we are coming undone while also being remade. Majella and Ginny navigate motherhood with a fierce love that propels the story forward with intense strength. Brilliant, vulnerable and intense, The Crooked Branch pierced my heart and paused my breath.”—Patti Callahan Henry, author of Coming Up for Air and Driftwood Summer “Exploring the effect of a secret from the past on a woman who is truly on the edge—of motherhood, of her future, of sanity, of happiness—Jeanine Cummins has written a story that truly resonates. Insightful, suspenseful, and sometimes bitingly funny, with characters the reader will think about for weeks, this bittersweet novel is emotional and immensely satisfying.”—Simone St. James, author of An Inquiry into Love and Death “The Crooked Branch is a haunting tale of motherhood and the ways in which it can ravage—and resurrect. Cummins's vivid prose and compelling story are burned in my heart.”—Kelly O'Connor McNees, author of The Lost Summer of Louisa May Alcott and In Need of a Good Wife “The Crooked Branch is a gorgeous, sweeping novel, equal parts harrowing and hilarious, that grips you from the first page and keeps you in its thrall. Two wildly different stories—a new mother in present-day Queens, a woman struggling to survive and feed her children during the Irish famine—are beautifully woven together, bound by a ferocious mother’s love that echoes across generations.”—Carolyn Turgeon, author of Godmother
Read Jeanine Cummins's posts on the Penguin Blog. A poignant debut novel of an Irish gypsy boy's childhood in the 1950's by the author of the bestselling memoir A Rip in Heaven.
Ireland, 1959: Young Christy Hurley is a Pavee gypsy, traveling with his father and extended family from town to town, carrying all their worldly possessions in their wagons. Christy carries with him a burden of guilt as well, haunted by the story of his mother's death in childbirth. The peripatetic life is the only one Christy has ever known, but when his grandfather dies, everything changes. His father decides to settle down temporarily in a town where Christy and his cousin can attend mass and receive proper schooling. But they are still treated as outsiders.
As Christy's exposure to a different life causes him to question who he is and where he belongs, the answer may lie with an old newspaper photograph and a long-buried family secret that could change his life forever...
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About the Author
Jeanine Cummins is the author of the bestselling memoir A Rip in Heaven, which People magazine called: “…a straightforward, expertly paced narrative that reads like a novel.” She lives in New York City