By Hazel Gaynor
William Morrow , $14.99, 384 pages
In her debut novel, The Girl Who Came Home: A Novel of the Titanic, Hazel Gaynor sets fresh historical fiction against the well-known backdrop of the sinking of the RMS Titanic. Bouncing between different narratives told between 1912 and 1982, Gaynor begins with the story of a third-class ticket holder. Seventeen-year-old Maggie Murphy is nervous about leaving her native Ireland, but she has no choice. Her Aunt Kathleen has decided it would be best for Maggie after the death of her mother, even if it means leaving her beau behind. Maggie and her Aunt Kathleen, along with twelve others, depart from Ballysheen, Ireland to board the Titanic. The novel fast-forwards to 1982, when Maggie is now in her eighties. Her great-granddaughter, Grace, has just had her life turned upside down by the unexpected death of her father. Leaving college and her boyfriend behind, it isn’t until her great-nana Maggie shares the story of her experience on the Titanic that Grace finds herself again.
The story is inspired by that of the Addergoole Fourteen, a group of people who left from the village of Lahardane, Ireland to sail on the Titanic. Gaynor weaves in several narratives throughout the story, providing different perspectives. With the true story so well-known, Gaynor’s first novel is a wonderful, albeit predictable read. If you’re interested in the history of the Titanic and love romantic side-stories, you will enjoy The Girl Who Came Home.
Reviewed by Kristin Urban