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The Irish Milliner
The Making of an Irish-American Woman in 19th Century New York
The Continuing Story of Norah McCabe
"We need to haunt the house of history and listen anew to the ancestors’ wisdom." – Maya Angelou
It is New York City and the Civil War is brewing. Norah McCabe, an Irish immigrant who escaped the Famine as a child, is now a young widow with a daughter. A milliner, struggling to survive in tumultuous times, Norah meets Abraham Lincoln, befriends the extraordinary African-American woman Elizabeth Jennings, and assists the Underground Railroad creating hats for runaway slaves. She falls headlong in
love with Edward M. Knox, son of the famous hat-maker Charles Knox, but he is lace curtain Irish and she is shanty Irish. Edward joins the 69th regiment and leaves for battle. Can their love endure through class differences and war? And then Norah is thrust into the chaos of the Draft Riots. Norah's childhood sweetheart, Sean O'Connolly, leaves New York to avoid conscription and Norah misses both men. She eventually travels to Gettysburg as a journalist for the Irish-American newspaper. And it is on the ghostly, but reverent, fields of Gettysburg Norah McCabe remembers the Famine fields of Ireland and is transformed. But now where will Norah find her home? This is a story of survival, intrigue, romance, as well as exploring the conflict of Irish immigrants thrust into a war that threatened to destroy a nation. Mostly, it is about an Irish-American woman who could be any immigrant today, any woman today, seeking to create beauty and make sense of her life.
VIDEO – Cynthia speaking at the Brooksby Villege Woman's Forum, Peabody, MA, March 15, 2017
The Irish Milliner is a finely-crafted novel and powerful story of a woman caught in the social and political backwash of a rapidly-changing country that will shape her and her family’s lives forever. Norah McCabe is an unforgettable Irish-American woman who is spirited and imbued with a remarkable sense of independence and self- will, of steely courage and a burning desire for justice and human rights for all - black or white, slave or freeman. Above all, it is her unshakable and buoyant spirit that shines through these pages. It is a story that stays with you long after you put the book down.
~ PJ Curtis, A Nightingale Falling, now an Irish feature film
" Cynthia Neale's beautifully written, well researched novel is a gift for our times. To witness the immigrant experience at a tumultuous period in our history through the eyes of The Irish Milliner and Norah McCabe softens the heart, expands the mind, and drives home once again Burke's quote, "Those who don't know history are doomed to repeat it."
~ Joanna Rush, actor, playwright, author of Asking For It (Kick!)
Award Honorable Mention as the
The Making of an Irish-American Woman in 19th-Century New York
"It became clear that much had conspired to bring her to this place, but that it was not just the place and event that she had been brought to. Revelation came to her that she, Norah McCabe, would live and not just live, but live like she had always wanted to live and had not known how."
– From NORAH: The Making of an Irish-American Woman in 19th-Century New York
Scant historical attention has narrowly defined the Irish immigrant woman. And yet the rate of economic and social progress of Irish women far exceeded other immigrant women ethnicities. Norah McCabe heartbreakingly and quixotically stumbles and falls into her real self in this coming-of-age, adventurous, romantic, historical novel.
When she strives to strip herself of her impoverished past through such manifold schemes as buying her own used clothing store, 'A Bee in Your Bonnet' and promenading in Paris finery, she experiences corruption, exploitation, and enchantment in a city that is forever mythic and magical. Norah McCabe joins a rebel Irish organization to free Ireland from British rule, writes for an Irish newspaper, undergoes love's transformation, and suffers a ship wreck.
She seeks to understand the feminist movement, but ultimately is unable to cross the chasm between herself as an Irish immigrant woman and Protestant feminist ideology. The terrors and questions of life strike her down with mental incapacity and loss. Her solitary freedom is the colorful warp and weft in the fabric of who she has become -- an Irish-American woman.
"NORAH" by Cynthia Neale Book Trailer 2nd Edition
Feathered Quill says: "This is not a tame, peaceful read. Although there are certainly beautiful scenes of corseted females in their finery traversing the streets of New York City, those same streets are also filled with vicious, violent people desperately trying to feed their families. Norah's life is upsetting in many ways and the twists and turns that happen to her do, indeed, include angry people who are truly out for themselves. However, this story is filled with so much intrigue, mystery, and beauty, that you'll cling to every word while watching Norah grow into a strong, courageous, and brilliant woman, who ends up truly proud of her Irish blood." READ MORE
"In her exciting historical novel, Norah, Cynthia G. Neale shows us 19th-century New York through the eyes of an Irish-American woman and thus gives us new insights into this tumultuous time. We see Norah McCabe making her way against all odds. A memorable journey!"
~ Mary Pat Kelly, author of the best-selling novel, Galway Bay and In Irish Blood
"If you're of Irish stock, and wonder how your mother or grandmother got to be so tough and resilient, you'll find her precursor in the title character. But of course, you don't have to be Irish to appreciate Norah McCabe. Hers is an American story of self-creation through sheer grit and imagination. This historical novel paints an authentic and compelling picture of what it means to be young, poor, and female longing for a better life in 1850s New York City-a place teeming with Irish immigrants, beset by gangs, challenged by feminists and abolitionists, and imbued with the vibrancy of a young nation seeking its potential. ...You'll root for Norah as [she] embarks on a dramatic journey to achieve a hard-won identity as a self-sufficient Irish-American woman in a turbulent time. She is the type of woman in whom you just might recognize your own mother, grandmother, and quite possibly, yourself."
~ Nancy Kelley, author of The Whispering Rod
Make no mistake, Norah McCabe is worthy of a reader’s attention in Neale’s deftly rendered novel that bears its heroine’s name. A page-turner, a provocative rendering of immigrant life, and a paean to the Ireland Neale clearly loves, the novel will certainly enhance your bookshelf as it has mine ~Mary Donnarumma Sharnick, author of Thirst and Plagued, historical fiction set in Venice.
While Norah is the main focus of this tale, there are many twists and turns that keep the reader turning the pages. There is deception, murder, mystery and a bit of romance. Cynthia G. Neale is a master at characterization. I felt as if I knew Norah personally. I cheered for her as she came to respect her heritage. If I could give this book higher than 5 stars I would. This is an excellent read that you won’t want to miss.
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The Irish Dresser
A Story of Hope during The Great Hunger (An Gorta Mor 1845-1850)
"Ever since the potato fog came to Ireland, I am always frightened and hungry. I am as hungry as a caterpillar devouring the leaves on a branch of a tree. My hands shake while I pick berries from the wet fields and eat them. It had been October when the potato fog came and destroyed our crops. Now it is November and it has been raining every day since, a soft drizzle that makes us feel like creatures of the sea. Ourskin is always moist, just like seals, just like fish."
— From The Irish Dresser: A Story of Hope during The Great Hunger (an Gorta Mor, 1845-1850)
When thirteen-year-old Nora McCabe crawls into the old dresser that sits next to the hearth holding a few pieces of her mother's china, she dreams of luscious cakes and fairies as hunger pains grip her. It is in the dresser that Nora finds hope when her father declares they must leave their beloved Ireland for America. Hidden in the magical dresser aboard the ship traveling to a new land, Nora lives an adventure that transforms her life and turns hope into reality.
"Besides eating green frosted cupcakes, families might celebrate St. Patrick's Day by reading a book about Ireland. More than two million Irish people emmigrated, largely to the United States, during the potato famine of 1845 to 1850 and another one million died of starvation. Author Cynthia Neale limns these terrible times in The Irish Dresser. To forget the hunger, 13-year-old Nora McCabe hides in her family's big dresser and daydreams about food and a richer life. Her father manages to scrape together passage on a ship to America, but there is no ticket for Nora. The piece of furniture is her only hope; and she stows away in it for the long journey filled with sick-ness, hunger and unfair treatment of the poor. In addition to a grip-ping plot, the story is beautifully told in the cadences of Irish speech."
~ Mary Quattlebaum, Children's Literature Critic
" The Irish Dresser is an exciting, entertaining, and highly recom- mended story of taking risks and facing new challenges for the sake of hope."
—Midwest Book Review
" Ms. Neale had drawn a vivid picture of the physical and emotional challenges facing Irish immigrants to America in the nineteen century."
—The Irish Emigrant
Hope in New York City
The Continuing Story of The Irish Dresser
A story of questioning where home is and learning that true belonging endures in the human spirit as well as in the love of family and friends.
This sequel continues the saga of Nora McCabe and her family now dwelling in New York City where they encounter poverty and racism as Irish Catholics and immigrants. Injustice and violence are a matter of course in this mysterious and alluring city filled with strange languages. Desperately homesick, Nora vows to save money and return to her homeland of Ireland. Meanwhile, she becomes a newsboy, meets Walt Whitman, visits Barnum's museum, meets new friends, and experiences an adventure. After purchasing a ticket to return to Ireland, the Astor Opera House Riot of 1849 occurs and her father disappears. Will Nora return to Ireland? Or can she stay and maintain her spirit while finding the true meaning of home?
This is an immigrant story--the kneading and mixing, the failure to rise again and again, but then rising to heights unimagined. It is a story of questioning where real home can be found, not in place, but in the soul.
"The novel is full of convincing historical detail. Young readers should enjoy getting to know a courageous and engaging teen-aged heroine, and they will learn a great deal about the Irish immigrant experience."
—Historical Novels Review
Pavlova in a Hat Box, Sweet Memories and Desserts
Cynthia Neale’s Pavlova in a Hat Box, Sweet Memories and Desserts is a pithy collection of stories and meditations that have been wrested from a country childhood and a writing life. Accompanying these vignettes are classic and new sumptuous dessert recipes redolent of the comfort of old-fashioned fare, but with an organic twist. The cheerful and whimsical illustrations and art work by Maggie Martin are accented throughout the book and give heed to celebrate the simple and the grand days of our lives, and to do so with dessert. Along with this extraordinary memoir cookbook, original piano music by Linn Brown will be made available.
CD to accompany the Pavlova book and your baking
Meditative piano music by Linn Brown, singer and songwriter
Dare to Dream Coconut Cake
(with a hint of lemon)
Click Here for Recipe
Cynthia Neale’s Pavlova in a Hat Box is a love letter disguised as a cookbook! Filled with heart-warming memories of her mother and her delicious confections, Ms. Neale’s book not only offers recipes and tips on baking tools and techniques, but also invites readers into her mother’s kitchen, a place always filled with warmth and love. Beautiful full color illustrations and images of old recipe cards punctuate the book and remind us that "recipes are like love notes that warm the heart of the baker"
—Margaret M. Johnson, Irish cookbook author
Cynthia Neale's Pavlova in a Hat Box is a delicious celebration of life! Written in memoir style, her writing flows easily and the recipes feature fresh, wholesome, and organic ingredients. Her instructions are simple and encourage the baker to be creative. Each recipe is artfully illustrated with beauty and whimsy that uniquely captures the desserts that bring the author's stories to life. Whether it be a cake, a scone, or a cookie, the reader will become totally immersed in the process of creating these delectable treats. I cannot wait to try the Spiffy Spiced Molasses Cookies and the Rocking Rhubarb Pie. YUM!
—Marilynn Carter, author of No Fret Cooking
If you’ve got a sweet tooth and an eye for deliciously vivid watercolors, this confection of a cookbook will make you wish you, too, had grown up in New York’s Finger Lakes region with a powerhouse baker of a mother. From Ceili Cake to Cranberry Tarts, the secrets are all here.
— Karl Zinsmeister, co-author of Finger Lakes Feast: 110 Delicious Recipes
from New York’s Hotspot for Wholesome Local Food