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Reviewed by Kimberlee J Benart for Readers' Favorite
Fourth of July is a short work by Robert E. Kearns which follows the story of an Irishman named Myles. Married and the father of an infant, he struggles to provide for his family during the Great Famine. Although he’s luckier than many and works for wages, he watches as families starve because they can no longer eat off their blighted potato crops and are evicted from their simple homes when they can no longer pay rent to absentee landlords. When Myles is told that he’s being let go due to a lack of profits to pay his wages, he decides they must leave Ireland and seek a new life in America. But first, they must survive the journey, which has its own risks as people are crammed, sick and well together, onto ships to make the ocean crossing. Will Myles and his family survive?
In Fourth of July, Kearns gives us the heart-wrenching story of a typical Irish immigrant family fleeing mass starvation, disease, homelessness, and poverty in Europe in the late 1840s. The narrative flows at a good pace, moving from one scene to another. Kearns writes in a highly descriptive and emotionally evocative style. You cannot but feel you are there, suffering along with Myles and his neighbors as they experience so much hardship, becoming angry at the absentee landlords who cared nothing for the welfare of their tenants and would order their homes burned to the ground rather than see them have any shelter. Without giving away the ending, let me say that it’s bittersweet. A moving read for anyone at any time but especially for Americans on the Fourth of July.