On my first Christmas as a married woman, my husband (of only two months) surprised me with the gift of a Claddagh ring. The striking ring, which symbolizes friendship, love, and, loyalty is steeped in Irish tradition and culture. It was the perfect gift from the Irishman I loved and had so recently promised to share my life with….
When I heard that Laura Pearl’s newest YA novel, Erin’s Ring, features just such a ring I knew I had to read it. The Claddagh ring in the story is found in the churchyard and on it is an engraving from Michael to Erin. Thirteen year old Molly McCormick, after discovering the treasure, sets out to solve the mystery of Michael and Erin, and why the ring bearing their message of love was found buried in the dirt.
As Molly delves deeper into the history of her new home, the reader is treated to a second storyline intertwined with the first. Going back over 170 years, Pearl also tells the tale of young Ann O’Brien, as she leaves her home country of Ireland and immigrates to the small town of Dover, NH.
This is historical fiction at its best. The two story lines, masterfully braided together across time, complement and balance each other. Ann is living the stories that Molly is learning about as she pours over records in the town library searching for the owner of the Claddagh ring and researching a school project.
As it turns out, the ring, though fairly prominently featured and obviously of importance, is not really what Erin’s Ring is all about though. The story is really about a deep and abiding love for the Catholic faith. Both Molly and Ann, in every challenge and situation, are driven by their faith. They are unapologetically passionate about their faith. They are inspired to work for what is right because of their faith.
Pearl is an expert at creating authentically Catholic characters who are also multi-dimensional. So, it comes as no surprise that it was the characters that drew me into the story. I especially love that the relationships in their lives create a perfect conduit for their strengths and weaknesses to be revealed. The relationships in the book are full of ups and downs, misunderstandings and insecurities, and, like the characters themselves, are just so real.
Erin’s Ring is a beautiful love story but it’s not so much about the romantic love between a man and a woman. Rather, it is about true love and devotion to the Catholic faith and to family. With so many immoral worldly books on the shelves of our library these days, it can be near impossible to find wholesome reading material for teen girls. This story fills a need for real Catholic fiction that never preaches, yet clearly delivers a message of hope and piety. Erin’s Ring is exactly the kind of story I feel good about encouraging my daughters to curl up with. In fact, it’s exactly the kind of book I myself enjoy curling up with!
** I received a free copy of Erin's Ring in exchange for my honest review. **