All the Walls of Belfast by Sarah J. Carlson. Turner Publishing Co. Nashville, TN, 2018.
This young adult novel begins with seventeen-year-old Fiona on her way to Ireland to meet her father. Her mother fled Ireland for America when Fiona was two, and Fiona spent her childhood believing her father wanted nothing to do with her. Her mother only recently admitted that Fiona’s father has been wanting to be a part of Fiona’s life ever since. A million questions are going through Fiona’s mind, as her plane begins its descent. She’s beginning to think her best friend, Nevaeh, was right: “…this was totally insane. And I hadn’t even told her the whole surprise-Dad-was-in-the Irish Republican Army thing.” Needless to say, this is a lot to digest for a seventeen-year-old. She’s miffed at her mother, that she kept her away from her father all these years, but she’s both eager and hesitant to meet him. Her mother has assured her that her father “…was not one of the real bad guys…it wasn’t like he’d killed anyone.”
Meanwhile, Danny, an Irish Protestant teen, is on his way to an interview that he hopes will take him out of the “sectarian rubbish,” as his teacher describes Danny’s life. Danny wants to join the British army as a nurse. His mother died in one of the bombings, but she left behind a note to him in his baby book: “…I dream that you’ll save lives instead of take them. Make the world a better place. Mummy loves you.” His father, though, hates the British government because they negotiate and make deals with the IRA. No son of his will be in the British army. Danny’s father drinks, abuses Danny and cherishes the July 12th parades that celebrate “his culture.” These parades sometimes wind their way through Catholic neighborhoods, causing tension, if not outright violence.
All the Walls of Belfast is a well written, poignant look at modern day Ireland long after the “Troubles” have passed. The undercurrent of tension between the Catholics and Protestants, however, still affects real people’s lives: in this story, the lives of two teenagers who just want to live in peace. How these two teens face their pre-conceived biases and learn to forgive is at the heart of this excellent young adult novel.