The Paradise Tree by Elena Maria Vidal is a sweeping tale of an Irish-Canadian family that I happily dare to mention in the same breath as Margaret Mitchell's Gone With the Wind. We get to see a fair amount of the family's life while still in Ireland, where they suffered state-condoned harassment and discrimination on account of their Catholic religion.The Paradise Tree is available from Amazon. Share
To escape imprisonment, Daniel emigrates to Canada, hoping to find a better climate in which to live and raise a family of his own. He's practically just off the boat, looking for work, and someone says, "Just don't tell me you are Catholic." Daniel proudly claimed his religion. That earned him points with me. I've heard it said that if we don't stand for something, we'll fall for anything. Daniel, and most of his family are fine examples of that maxim.
But Daniel's work ethic and honor win over a lot of people, who otherwise probably wouldn't have given him the time of day. He finds a good Catholic girl (who is considerably younger than him) to be his bride and they have a number of children. I believe two of them do not survive to adulthood, and the deaths are handled with the sensitivity and sadness that go along with the passing of family members.
One part that I found both intriguing and charming is that Daniel regularly invited a Protestant minister and his assistant to supper with his family, and lively debates over religious topics peppered the meal-time conversations. I know that parts of the book had to be fictionalized, due to the long time since these events occurred, but I hope this bit has a kernel or two of truth in it. These supper debates took place because Daniel felt that his children should be able to defend their faith if called upon so to do, and this was a good way for them to listen and learn.
Ms. Vidal was a new author to me before I read The Paradise Tree. I am now a huge fan! I subscribe to her blog and everything she's ever written for distribution is on my TBR (to be read) list. If you enjoy history and/or historical fiction, you'll become a fan too. (Read more.)