Last of the Name

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 15 Feb 2019

Member Reviews

I like to read fictional history. This books offers a new perspective of how the Irish had to live in Ireland in the 1800's and in America in the same period.
The story presents the life of Danny and Kathleen. They have to struggle to survive in America, during the Civil War. They have to learn what is allowed in America and was not in Ireland and vice versa. 
Even if they have a very hard life, they don't forget the good thing their parents thought them: to take care of others that are more unfortunate, to sing and dance, to work hard, to practice their faith where ever they are. 
This book is full of deep lessons about life. 
Danny and Kathleen meet a lot of human typologies: generous people, bitter people, sad people, wicked and arrogant people, religious people, kind people. What I love the most is that they try to be the best of what their parents thought them. 
They honor their name and even if it is "last of the name", they make it live through their life, choices and story.
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I am always on the hunt for good, diverse historical fiction that tells the story of times and events that are not a utterly common in YA fiction. Last of the Name checks all these boxes. A tale of 1863 New York City, the main characters (who are Irish) face discrimination right alongside many other populations, leading to divisive and explosive events. An author's note gives further historical detail.
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“Always remember who ye are,” Granny says. “Descended of the great bards of old. Honord by princes near and far they were. Sought out for music and for counsel. Keepers of history. Writers of songs.”

I was excited to read Last of the Name, being of partial descent from Irish immigrants myself. It’s not a topic I’ve often seen covered for this age group, and I was thrilled to see it done so well.

Last of the Name is a middle-grade book about the arrival of Irish immigrants to the United States during the time of the Civil War. 12-year-old Danny has lost everyone dear to him except for his sister Kathleen, either to war, famine (by hunger or in attempts to steal enough food for their family to survive), or the crossing to America. He rebels at dressing as a girl to be a maid alongside Kathleen, but since it seems their only hope of staying together and surviving in the bitter, angry stew that was New York City in 1863, he goes along with his sister’s plan.

"Kathleen is the sort of believer who believes more the less evidence there is. She could be on her knees for days on end. I’m going to die of hunger while she prays to save me from a bountiful future…If only there was a patron saint of those afflicted by tyrannical sisters there’d be hope for me."
Despite his complaining, it’s clear Danny dearly loves his sister and will do anything for her. As the city grows more and more hateful, both towards free blacks and the Irish (coming to steal jobs, naturally), it becomes almost as dangerous for them as it was at home – except here, people appreciate Danny’s voice and his dancing feet, which maybe – just maybe – might be the key to their survival in New York City. But when the draft is initiated and the Irish immigrants of the city bear the brunt of it (so much for random!), the whole city looks to go up in flames.

I’m not going to lie, I teared up several times reading this story – and I’m not even sure why! It just felt so poignantly REAL. Danny was adorable and I loved Kathleen’s fire and backbone.

“You Irish,” says another [man], just as stern. “It’s your own out there doing the lynching and the burning. What do you have to fear from your own?”

“You fat old men!” Kathleen shrieks. “What do you know of fear, you with your broad shoulders and your full plates! We have to fear what every woman fears her whole life long. Ye heartless men! When have you ever been small or hungry? Would you send a German child out on the streets this night? Aren’t we Catholic like you? Don’t we sit side by side in church?”

As is historically accurate, Danny and Kathleen’s Catholic faith does play a part in the story – but never in a proselytizing way. The story really shows how much conflict was in the United States at this time, not only around color, but around religion, politics, even denominations. It’s rather disheartening to see that we’ve never really moved on, the names of the different factions have just changed. Despite all that, the story is one of beauty and hope and I’ll be adding it to my own library.

5/5 stars. Highly recommend, and it REALLY needs much more attention than it’s getting!

Review will be posted on Goodreads, and at the link below on 28 March 2019.
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I am a huge fan of historical fiction, and I enjoyed reading this story so much. Firstly, I was quite anxious for the two main characters, Danny and his sister Kathleen, when they  had to leave Ireland, with no future in mind. 

But, then things happened, in a most unexpected way, and Kathleen and Danny, found work, which then solved their problems, even if Danny had to "dress up" a little, to work with his sister. It did keep them out of the orphan asylum, which was something that they wanted to avoid.

The one moment of the book that delighted me, was when Danny discarded his "maid's uniform", to walk through the streets of New York, as himself. Singing, and laughing, he had never felt happier.

I would recommend this book, to anyone interested in historical fiction, or that period of time in New York City. It was a great work of literature by Rosanne Parry.
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Poignant   ~  Wrenching    ~  Surprising 

tl; dr: Irish teen arrives in New York City in the middle of the Civil War to see a country broken and to feel prejudice. 

The middle school level book was a well-written story about the Irish during the Civil War. Danny and his sister Kathleen feel the prejudice of the era against Catholics and Irish and survive (barely) to have a happy ending. The prose is well-written and the story is compelling (stressful at times). I found details, like the types of food they ate or the surrounds in NYC were well-done. Ideal for any middle schooler whose family has a similar heritage.
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Danny and his sister, Kathleen arrive in New York City. They are the last of their family. It is 1863 and the Civil War is on. They have no money. Kathleen is wanting to keep Danny by her side so they take a job in a home as two maids. Most people are not fooled by Danny dressed as a girl. New York is very divided in whether to be fighting in this war or not. Danny is only interested in music. Kathleen is only interested in them staying together. You can see how this will work out for them.
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This was a story about a young boy's immigration to America from Ireland during the Civil War.  It was very enlightening as I didn't really know how bad the Irish in America had it, although it was still much better than what they lived through in Ireland.  Daniel is a dancing and singing boy who has to dress as a girl and do maid work in order to stay with his sister.  Eventually he finds a way to be himself and it was fun getting to the happy ending.
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Last of the Name is a story of Irish immigrants. I found the characters engaging and likeable. This book held my interest. It's a good read overall.
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I love the premise of this novel, the protagonist is witty and punchy, honest and raw. All the things I love in a protagonist!
I did find the language used throughout the novel to be a little off-putting, slowing down my progression as I tried to grasp the meaning behind some of it, but I guess that is the point, that it is an immigrant family. 
Still,. I did enjoy this book, would recommend!
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Oh, my heart. This was such a masterfully wrought book. 

The voice was perfect, easy to follow yet totally believable for a twelve-year old. The sensory details were phenomenal--the clutter and squalor and headiness of old New York. I appreciated how Rosanne Parry didn't pull any punches. Often, I find children's historical fiction is either too watered-down or hinges too much on grief, but Daniel's story is both tragic and ultimately hopeful. He's a fantastic hero; both naive and savvy. And I adored his relationship with his sister! I ached for them, flying through page after page. 

So overall, I would absolutely recommend. I normally cringe at the idea of 'educational' books (I've got a 13 year old sister, I know how kids react to those), but LAST OF THE NAME hit so many nails on the head. It's an adventure, it's emotional, and it's vividly, vividly real. 5/5.
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It is a great historical fiction about Irish immigrants, a touching story.
Thanks to Netgalley and the Publisher for this nice copy.
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Good heavens, this was a delicious book!  Throughout my reading I was constantly being reminded of bits and pieces out of A Tree Grows in Brooklyn.  And I don't mean to infer that this book in any way tries to copy or imitate the other - it's its own beautiful, individual voice, and all the better for it.  But both novels share a lot in common - they're both set in New York, both heavily feature music and its influence on people even in the worst conditions, they both shine a spotlight on immigrant families (both with Irish immigrant families as well), poverty, racism, classism, violence, and sexism.  And both shine a spotlight on one small, struggling family to illustrate a particular moment in history.

And most importantly, they are both written for a specific age group, but - in my opinion - both of them absolutely outstrip themselves and are worthy reading for adults as well.  I'm a 41 year old woman who has a long habit of rereading favorites countless times in life, and this *will* be added to that list.

Where ATGIB is told (mostly) from the POV of a young girl in the early 1900s, Last of the Name is told by Daniel, a boy of similar age, in the mid 1800s.  Strange to think that Daniel's grandchildren may be running around the same New York as Francie and Neeley!

The thing that makes this book uniquely its own voice is the lyrical quality of it.  Though I do not usually assign 'voices' to characters, I found my reading 'voice' naturally falling into an Irish accent during the narration, and during the voices of the Irish characters.  They were that vivid and alive on the page!  And every time Daniel began to sing or dance, I could hear the music playing and the feet pounding - hell, I could damn near feel the song in my own throat and the feel of the boards under my own feet, it was just so vivid!  The other thing I found was that the book gave off a really great feeling of *pace* as well - I mean in the sense of the pace the children and the world were running at.  They were racing through the city to find a job, they were racing around in their jobs along with many other servants, all of them frantic to keep them, the city itself was racing trying to keep up with the war, and eventually.... well, let's just say that by the climax, everyone is involved in the rush and the push and the struggle to stay alive.

It isn't only Irish characters, though the main focus of the book is on the struggles of Daniel and Kathleen, against the background struggles of Irish people at that time in history and some time previous.  There is, as I mentioned above, much social commentary on the book, and like ATGIB, it does a wonderful job of tackling it - it doesn't shy away from having any at all, pretending it never existed, but neither does it shove in the racism, sexism, etc, and leave it in uncriticized with a casual handwave of "well, that's just the way it was back then."  There is a very gentle but firm underlying lesson in this story - that all people have their own struggles, and that in focusing on our own, no matter how hard it may be, we may miss someone else's that's harder - and suffer the consequences of knowing, on realization of it, that we probably added to that person's struggles, indirectly if not directly.  It touches on the helplessness of seeing injustices against others and wanting to fix them but struggling far too desperately just to keep oneself alive to do much of anything about it.  It touches on mob violence, and historic prejudice, and it does it all in an age appropriate way that - I can say from experiencing similar books as a young girl - will stay in a child's heart and mind as they age, leaving them with a better knowledge of what the world has been like, can be like, and that they have a choice as to what side they choose to take.
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This book broke me out of a month-long reading slump. A necessary addition to the middle grade historical fiction shelf, Parry tells the story of Irish immigrants with heart and depth. Set in 1863 New York, she covers the lead-up and subsequent brutality of the Draft Riots with honesty and sensitivity - never straying from the child's point of view. Daniel and Kathleen's sibling relationship is touching and true - complete with loving gestures and not-so-loving big-sisterly corrections. Their hardships are believable and terrible - though not overwhelming - and through it all the hope of a better future carries both the characters and the readers through the difficult time period.
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