Steel Shamrocks

The Sons of Annie McKenna

Fiction - Historical - Personage
348 Pages
Reviewed on 10/17/2014
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    Book Review

Reviewed by Emily-Jane Hills Orford for Readers' Favorite

The McKennas and the McKeevers have a long and fascinating family history. Steel Shamrocks traces the families back to Ireland in the early 1800s. The story of these two families begins on their tenant farms in rural Ireland, under the hard-fast thumb of English landlords. This was before the great potato famines, but it was also a great time of strife and turmoil for those large Irish families who were struggling to make a living out of their tenant plots of land. Like so many others, the McKennas and the McKeevers made the difficult decision to try their luck in America and followed the footsteps of earlier families from their area who had settled in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and made a success of their new lives.

The family history tracks the route of travel from Ireland to Quebec City on a lumber boat and then onto Pittsburgh, primarily on foot, with a newborn babe to care for. After years of hard work in Pittsburgh, each member of the family meets some form of success, although some of the family decided to try their luck further west and the story loses track of their individual stories. The Pittsburgh family grows and the story continues through great fires, a Civil War, union strife, and political turmoil, some of the original emigrant family's descendants even going into politics, at least at the local level.

A journey back to Ireland in the early 1900s allowed a couple of McKenna and McKeever descendants to trace their family stories back to the old country. David M. Quinn has taken his wife's family's extraordinary tale and created a thrilling historical fiction story, which might be better described as creative nonfiction. Well done. Excellent research, compelling plots and very interesting.