From the critically acclaimed and Edgar-nominated author, this novel of actual events of 1806 resonates with today’s issues of jingoism and religious intolerance.
In this powerful novel based on an actual case, two Irish immigrants are arrested, convicted and executed for the callous murder of a traveler on the Boston Post Road in 1806. Daley, a simple family man with a young son, and Halligan, a man with a checkered past and a lost love, face their deaths bravely with the help of a Catholic priest from France with his own private shame. Victims of anti-immigrant and anti-Catholic prejudice, the tragedy of the Irishmen’s execution is underscored by the fact that modern evidence has exonerated them of the crime.
Michael C. White vividly captures the political, social, and cultural context of early Boston. He illustrates the conflict felt by the church, which must weigh the impact of supporting their accused parishioners against their tenuous foothold in the city. This heartbreaking story will satisfy White’s host of fans, and will win him many new readers.
Discussion Questions for The Garden of Martyrs
1. What does the garden of martyrs in the title refer to?
2. While Daley and Halligan are both Irish, the novel presents them as quite different men. In what ways are they different?
3. Halligan is a man very much troubled by a love he left behind in Ireland. Cheverus tries to help him confess his sins but Halligan is not, as he himself concedes, particularly religious. As he approaches his death, what conclusion does he reach about the nature of love and forgiveness?
4. Though they are intellectually and spiritually opposite, both Cheverus and Halligan have dark secrets in their pasts. How do the inner conflicts resulting from those secrets bring the two men closer together?
5. Why is Cheverus, as a representative of the Catholic Church, at first reluctant to get involved with the fate of the two Irishmen?
6. Cheverus finds in his “heart of hearts” some of the same prejudices and biases toward the Irish that the general populace holds. Why is this and how does he finally overcome them?
7. Finola Daley makes Father Cheverus uncomfortable. Why?
8. The three main characters are all immigrants. How is the novel, however, about the quintessential American spirit?
This miscarriage of justice is the subject of a riveting new novel called The Garden of Martyrs by Michael C. White.
Irish America Magazine
The Garden of Martyrs is a meticulously researched and richly drawn portrait of the lives of two Irish-Catholic immigrants and their priest. Michael C. White has delivered a historical novel of lasting contemporary resonance.
A Manette Ansay
Michael White’s new novel The Garden of Martyrs, is everything a historical novel, or any novel, should be—rich in its characters and setting, compelling in its drama, and utterly true in its emotions and ideology.
Richard Russo, author of Pulitzer Prize-winning novel Empire Falls