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Ethan McOwen is an Irish immigrant whose endurance is tested in Brooklyn and the Five Points at the height of its urban destitution; he is among the first to join the famed Irish Brigade and becomes a celebrated war photographer. Marcella, a society girl from Spain, defies her father to become a passionate abolitionist. Mary and Micah are slaves of varying circumstances, who form an instant connection and embark on a tumultuous path to freedom. All four lives unfold in two beautiful love stories, which eventually collide.
Written in gorgeous language that subtly captures the diverse backgrounds of the characters, and interspersed with letters, journals, and dreams, this unforgettable story, rendered in cinematic detail, is about having faith in life's great meaning amidst its various tangles.
Customer ReviewsMost Helpful
By Cheimon on 04-26-12
Four passionate performances give wings to story
The book behind this audiobook alone would be a great read, but the four performers who lend their voice to the four central characters lift it into the must-listen category.
The first three chapters alone are worth the purchase - we hear the voices of three remarkable human beings, two abused slaves and an Irish immigrant who is a mere child when he boards a New York-bound "coffin ship" to escape the potato famine. With their tenacity, their faith even through the greatest of suffering, their compassion for strangers and their unending love and devotion for their families, these three represent America at her very finest, even at a time when America herself is deeply torn about her own convictions.
Especially in the second half of the book the story itself lags a little behind some of the grand Civil War sagas of the last century - some fortuitous turns may seem a little too easy, some choices, especially as they relate to the love stories, just a little too clean. As it spans twenty years in four separate lives on only 400 pages though, this is forgivable and in no way diminishes the overall enjoyment of the audiobook. I would give it four and a half stars for story, but five seemed fairer than four.
The greatest treat lies in its narration, however. The characters as voiced are immensely lovable and made me root for them passionately. I laughed, I cried, I wasn't even a little ashamed... it was a thoroughly heartwarming listening experience despite the grim backdrop.
Micah's struggles to be a true man in a world that doesn't even acknowledge him as fully human are brought to life with a raw depth that brings chills to the spine. The narrations for both him and Mary are particularly notable, as they bring to life two slaves who had to acquire every bit of their forbidden literacy with hard, covert work - their narrators never let us forget the competing forces of pride, submission and genuine devotion that tear at their characters. At the same time, they transport the listener straight into the mosquitoes and the scorching sun of the Deep South.
Ethan's boyish humor often had me laugh out loud - his story (including every mischievous smirk) is voiced throughout in the most adorable brogue, which keeps alive the 12 year old boy we fell in love with in the first chapter. Marcella (the fourth character, joining a bit later) in many ways undergoes the greatest amount of growing up over the course of the novel, even though (or because?) she started in the most comfortable place. Her voice does justice to this arc - rarely have I watched a narrator mirror her character's development so faithfully, and yet so subtly.
I cannot recommend this book heartily enough.
9 of 9 people found this review helpful
By Ann on 06-20-12
What did you love best about May the Road Rise Up to Meet You?
I am so thankful to have stumbled onto this book. The story is beautiful and breathtaking, full of love and hope and all of the best in human experience. The characters face the extremes and troubles of their age, but they manage to endure and live and hope on. We experience vicariously what it might have been like to be such people. I am left with a heart warmed and a mind challenged. I am a better person for having read this book.
While written for adults, I feel that the novel is appropriate for teenagers. Important adult themes are handled with decency. Profanity, while present, is not glorified nor prevalent.
I experienced the story in audible format, and I wish to mention that having the book read by four superb actors was a great enhancement to an already remarkable work. The music in the Irish, Southern and Spannish voices is not to be missed, and I was impressed by how each of the actors showed excellent range. These vocal performances are a beautiful enhancement to a magnificent novel.
4 of 4 people found this review helpful