Greta Cahill never believed she would leave her village in the west of Ireland until she found herself on a ship bound for New York, along with her sister Johanna and a boy named Michael Ward. Labeled a "softheaded goose" by her family, Greta discovers that in America she can fall in love, raise her own family, and earn a living. Though she longs to return and show her family what she has made of herself, a dark secret forces her to keep her life in New York separate from the one she once loved in Ireland.
Keane’s remarkable achievement of entering the world of the Irish travellers in this story is one not often undertaken by writers. The character Michael Ward leaves his past in the travelling communities, often referred to derogatively as 'tinkers,' to go to New York with Greta and her free-spirited sister Johanna. Very little literature exists from within these communities ... Honesty is not in short supply in The Walking People. The depth and compassion of the novel...has made it a remarkable first work. Readers will certainly be eager for Keane’s future works.
... a richly moving first novel about Irish immigration to America in the late 20th century ... Keane gives her characters range and complexity so that there are no victims or villains ... Sometimes heart-wrenching, sometimes joyous and tender—one of those stories that lingers in the reader’s memory as a lived experience.
Debut author Keane offers an extended meditation on leaving, finding and making home in a novel focused on the new Irish immigrant experience ... The narrative, which extends from 1956 to the present, has the dusty feel of 19th-century literature, though Greta is an appealing character lacking in nostalgia. Her romance is also authentic and unsentimental, and despite the stodgy storytelling, her coming-of-age reflects a fresh take on the lives recent immigrants can create.