In the summer of 1922, Robert Shannon, a young American hero of the Great War, lands in Ireland. A Marine chaplain, he was present at the frightful Battle of Belleau Wood, and he still suffers from shell shock. His mentor hopes that a journey Robert had always wanted to make-to find his family roots-will restore his equilibrium and his vocation. Unbeknownst to Robert, a safety net has been spread beneath him: All along the banks of the river that bears his family name, a chain of support has been put into place-to guide him, nurture him, and protect him. But there is more to the story: On his return from the war, Robert Shannon witnessed startling and lethal corruption in the Archdiocese of Boston. As a consequence, he has also been sent to Ireland to secure his silence-permanently.
At dawn one morning, Robert steps ashore from a freighter in the river's estuary and is thrust headlong into the maelstrom of Irish politics, with the country now roiling from the civil war that followed the 1921 Treaty with Britain. While Robert faces the dangers of a strife-torn nation and is pursued by the venom of true evil, Ireland's myths and people, its beliefs and traditions, its humor and wit, unfurl healingly before his feet every step of the way. And the River Shannon, her beauty, her legends, and her lore, give comfort to the young man, who is inspired by the words of his mentor: "Find your soul and you'll live."
Driven by his eloquent passion for his country and its spirit, Frank Delaney, the acclaimed author of Ireland and Tipperary, returns once more to his home terrain with a beautifully written, meticulously researched, and expertly paced novel. Shannon is a timeless and unforgettable account of salvation, belief, duty-and the healing power of discovering one's roots. In these pages, faith, commitment, the benign quirks of Irish myth, and the menace of Irish history all coalesce into an epic narrative of one young American's travels to his family's beginning and through a hopeful nation rushing to the future.
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February 09, 2009
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Excerpt from Shannon by Frank Delaney
Chapter 1 At the vulnerable age of thirty, Robert Shannon lost his soul. Nothing is worse; no greater danger exists. Only sinners lose their souls, it’s said, through the evil that they do. Not Robert Shannon. Incapable of anything but good, he lost his soul through savagery that he witnessed, horrors that he saw. And then, as he was repairing himself and his beliefs, he was ravaged further in the pursuit of his own faith. When you ?lose—?or have ripped from ?you—?the spirit that directs you, you have two options. Fight for your soul and win it back, and you’ll evermore be a noble human being. Fail, and you die from loss of truth. And so, just before dawn one morning in 1922, Robert Shannon stood on the deck of a slow old freighter on the southwest coast of Ireland and looked inland. This was the point to which he had come in search of his lost best self. If he could have explained clearly what he was doing, he would have said that he wanted to find the man he had been. If he could have described lucidly the essence of his journey across the Atlantic, he would have expressed the wish that here, in the country of his forebears, some ancient magic of ancestry might restore him. Could it be that in the old land, of which he had so often dreamed, he might find, to begin with, hope? But what he desperately needed to rediscover was belief. On the port side, the western hills slept low and dark; to starboard rose the tall and ragged box of a ruined castle. A lighthouse came gliding into view, its lantern’s beam fading against the opening skies. These were sights he had expected to see, and as they approached they comforted ?him—?insofar as he could feel comfort. The dark rocks, though watching carefully, offered no threat, and the freighter steamed in, composed now in the estuary’s calm after weeks of coping with the burly sea. Find your soul and you’ll live. Ashore, colors began to wake up and stretch. A gray triangle became a lawn of green. In a whitewashed cottage wall, a dark oblong shape developed into a turquoise door. The large house on the hill strengthened from gray to yellow. In a sloping field, ?black-?and-? white cows drifted, heavy and swaying, toward their gate, expecting to be milked. Forward of the ship, seabirds flapped up from the little waves. On a rock a cormorant waited, an etching in black angles. The spreading river shone like gray satin; later it would turn sapphire under the blue sky. As the light brightened, the captain came and stood at the rail with his lone passenger, for whom he had to find a clear mooring in this uncertain place. Once having landed this man safely and well, he could take the freighter back into the channel. Not for the first time, Captain Aaronson heard his passenger murmur something and sigh. The square tower of the village church remained in shadow. Despite the ?half-?light, the ship discovered the little old pier, made a wide curve, and chugged in. Disembarkation took no more than a few minutes. The seamen dropped a ladder over the side, and the passenger took the captain’s hand as though he wished to keep it. “Thank you, Captain. For your”—he ?halted—?“for ?your—?such kindness.” Without a further word he turned and, with his back to the waiting land, and made hunchbacked by his large rucksack, he descended the ladder. When his feet touched the jetty, he stood for a moment; indeed, he clung to the ladder. Then he took a step backward and turned away. Looking down from the rail, the captain and some crewmen watched him lurch off, this man who had rarely spoken to them. As one said, “He spooked us all,” because he moved around so silently. He’d slipped and slid with the roll of the sea. He’d taken th