W.W. Norton & Company, June, 2005
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.
Interview: Penny Nelson talks to undertaker-poet Thomas Lynch about his memoir “Booking Passage: We Irish and Americans.”