Booking Passage

Booking Passage: We Irish and Americans

W.W. Norton & Company, June, 2005

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A memoir of forty years of coming and going between Michigan and Moveen, West Clare.  This writer’s returning to the old country reveals the binding ties of family, faith, language and home-place — the precious and perilous nature of tribe and “people” and ethnicity.  Part memoir, part cultural study, Booking Passage is a brilliant, often comedic guidebook for those whom Lynch calls “fellow travelers, fellow pilgrims” making their way through their own and the larger histories. A writer’s returning to the old country reveals the binding ties of family, faith, language and home-place — the precious and perilous nature of tribe and “people” and ethnicity.

“So, Tom that went and Tom that would come back!” That is how Nora Lynch greeted the young American in 1970, at the edge of the ocean in West Clare, outside the cottage that his great-grandfather-another Thomas Lynch-had left nearly a century before on a one-way ticket to America.

In thirty-five years and dozens of return trips to Ireland, Thomas Lynch has found a template for the larger world inside the small one, the planet in the local parish. The neighbors and characters he found there-spinsters and small farmers, local heroes and poets, clergy and corner boys-have taught him to look, as Montaigne said we ought, for “the whole of Man’s estate” in every man.

Audio Visual

Interview:  Penny Nelson talks to undertaker-poet Thomas Lynch about his memoir “Booking Passage: We Irish and Americans.”

SoundCloud tracks



Stephanie Merritt, The Guardian: Home thoughts from Detroit

In 1890, after the famine, Thomas Lynch's great-grandfather left the family smallholding in Moveen, Co Clare, in the west of Ireland, for a better life in America. In 1970, Lynch,...

Clarence Brown, The Seattle Times

"Booking Passage: We Irish and Americans" by Thomas Lynch W.W. Norton, 296 pp., $24.95 Pause for a moment to admire the title, which is Lynch the poet at his best....

At Home Abroad: Irish in America

By Jonathan Yardley, whose e-mail address is Tuesday, August 2, 2005 BOOKING PASSAGE We Irish and Americans By Thomas Lynch Norton. 296 pp. $24.95 Thomas Lynch is just about...

Dennis O’Driscoll

"Booking Passage touches on Irish-American themes which are so fundamental that one wonders why they haven't been explored this revealingly until now. But, then, who else could match Thomas Lynch's...

Bret Lott, author of A Song I Knew by Heart and Jewel

"With Booking Passage: We Irish and Americans, Tom Lynch proves yet again why he is one of the most important writers in the English language. Whether writing of the wonders...

Library Journal Review

"You might think that revisiting Ireland has been done to death in the rush to publish following Angela's Ashes, but think again- poet/essayist Lynch is always excellent. With a seven-city...

New York Times Book Review

"Lynch shows himself to be a master of the essay … he speaks eloquently in the voice of both poet and undertaker."

Los Angeles Times Book Review

"Lynch has his finger on the bloody pulse of creation, and what makes him such a fine essayist is that it's just the business of everyday life and death to...