The Emerald Isle
The Emerald Isle is the fourth and last novel in The Heirs of Cahira O’Connor series, following The Silver Sword, The Golden Cross, and The Velvet Shadow. The format is familiar – one story interwoven with another from the distant past. Destiny is the theme, as an ancient prayer is fulfilled in the lives of four women descended from a thirteenth-century Irish princess, ending with this contemporary story of Kathleen O’Connor. While the concept is not fresh, and certain elements are “belief” stretchers, the interlacing of Cahira and Colton’s romance with that of Kathleen’s adds pathos and tension to an otherwise tame story.
Kathleen tells her own story, beginning in June of 1999. She describes herself as “what you might call a practical Christian. I’m kind to strangers, I’m prepared for heaven, and I try to be a good testimony on earth. I don’t have visions, I don’t jump around in church, yet there are times I hear the still, small Voice – not audible, but insistent all the same.”
This time, the Voice delays her in crossing a New York City street, long enough to meet a vivacious, pretty stranger named Maddie O’Neil. Kathleen is on her way to meet her best friend, Taylor Morgan, and she invites Maddie to join them, although she soon regrets her impulse as from first sight Taylor and Maddie have eyes only for each other. Kathleen makes a number of discoveries about herself as she deals with the seeming loss of the man who is not only her best friend, but the one she had thought she would marry.
When the terminal illness of Maddie’s father dictates that Maddie return home to Ireland for a time, Taylor determines to not only take Maddie, but Kathleen, too. He decides to marry Maddie in Ireland and he wants Kathleen, his best friend, to be a part of the wedding. Although this doesn’t please either Maddie or Kathleen, Taylor gets his wish, using Kathleen’s work as another reason for her to go. Kathleen has been writing about the heirs of Cahira O’Connor, an Irish ancestor who prayed on her deathbed for her descendants to fight for right in the world. She would have access to research material in Ireland that is not available to her in the U.S.
Amidst Maddie’s family, Kathleen learns much about human nature, love and friendship, and what it truly means to be a woman of destiny. Through a developing friendship with Patrick, Maddie’s brother who has been estranged from their father, Kathleen finds her faith put to the test, and that “practical” Christianity may not be the virtue she had thought it to be.
Ms. Hunt offers well-rounded, engaging characters. Kathleen’s humor and honesty are refreshing, and her placid nature is contrasted nicely with the feisty, passionate Cahira. Taylor is clueless, but well-intentioned, and strives to do what is right for himself as well as others. Patrick is a study in contrasts – brilliant and successful, yet driven by hurt rooted in childhood. While the story of Cahira and Colton is less developed, it is poignant, tragic, yet full of hope as their legacy is known from the beginning.
The two stories complement each other to an extent, but the parallels are subtle at best. Several details are implausible, such as Kathleen occasionally knowing more of the details of Cahira’s life and her emotions than is reasonable. And, when Patrick comes to Christ, he immediately begins to argue doctrine and quote scripture from all over the Bible as though he has studied it for years, when in actuality it has been a day or two. He is suddenly consumed with the Genesis account of Eve being created as Adam’s helper and sets out to investigate the original Hebrew to prove that woman was not meant to be inferior in any way to man. A praiseworthy attitude, certainly, but the entire section stands out as a message the author wanted to include and manufactured an opening for it.
The Emerald Isle is a warm and comfortable story. Though Patrick’s foray into scripture is heavy-handed and takes the reader out of the narrative, most of the book provides gentle inspiration rather than doctrinal lectures. And while parts of the story require too much suspension of disbelief, the message it imparts – that truth should not be compromised, and that living unashamedly according to that truth means living a life of destiny – is certainly worthwhile.