The author of In the Season of the Daisies and five other novels reflects on his upbringing in the mid-20th century Irish countryside, where he worked on the family farm and expected from an early age to enter the Catholic priesthood.
Every bookstore in Ireland is well stocked with accounts of growing up on a remote Irish farm, but Tom Phelan's memoir of his boyhood is exceptional ... I sped through the book (yeah, just one more chapter before bed). Phelan's prose has an unpretentious beauty as he describes the farm, its routine and the people he remembers ... With rich detail and sensitivity, We Were Rich translates for us a rural world that has disappeared.
...a nimble exercise in storytelling in which [Phelan] shapes his recollections into a series of richly detailed vignettes ... [the book] captures the essence and detail of a rural Irish boy’s world ... The small compass of this universe lends its people, places and events epic significance ... Plain, honest, funny, occasionally sad and rich in material detail, this wonderful memoir has none of the hardscrabble caperings and gooped-up melodrama of Frank McCourt’s Angela’s Ashes, with which it will no doubt be compared. This is the real thing.
Phelan’s book has a lot of charm going for it, though the narrative tends to fall apart in the last portion and to become a series of portraits ... He writes exceedingly well about his parents, especially his Dad, JohnJoe, who raised cattle and pigs and taught his son valuable lessons ... At the front of this book Phelan explains that, 'some of the dialogue has been re-created.' Still, it doesn’t feel forced. Indeed, the expressions are colorful. Many of them are worth of the price of the book itself ... We Were Rich feels authentic, conversational, and casual, though it might have been worked over many times ... We Were Rich is a wonderful introduction to an Irish boyhood and to a way of life that doesn’t exist anymore. It’s a perfect gift for St. Patrick’s Day or any other day of the year.