In post-World War II Ireland, there is renewed hope for a peaceful world. But while much of the world lies
in tatters, Ireland has troubles of its own, troubles unrelated to the war. It's a constant struggle to
scratch out a living; industry is rare, jobs are scarce, people are poor. Ellen Rawdon lives on a little
family farm in Donegal and enjoys the steady, simple, and predictable life of an Irish lass from a close-
knit and loving but impoverished family. Her parents love each other, and they love the children well.
Firm discipline, Irish wisdom and a few Celtic myths are meted out when necessary to keep the children
on the straight and narrow. And, of course, there is always the Church.
Ellen longs for the things any young girl desires, but she knows, even at thirteen, that life and necessity
will likely take her from Ireland one day. She is a dreamer, yes, but one with her eyes wide open.
Here, now, in Moville, County Donegal, she still has sisters Maggie, Rose and Theresa, her mischievous
brother, James, and his partner in crime, friend Sean. Then there are her wise and devoted parents,
Mary and Philip. Ellen is well insulated from the horrors of the outside world.
Until Philip is diagnosed with cancer. Ellen watches helplessly as her once strong and capable father
is pulled, slowly and painfully, into death’s chasm. Just when she feels it can’t get much worse, Ellen
sees her mother become a victim of a dark and disabling depression, for she loses her own soul when her
beloved husband dies so young. There is no choice now – the Rawdon children have to step in and keep
the farm working just to keep everyone fed. Maggie leaves for New York City, one of the American havens
of the Irish diaspora, and Jim reluctantly works the farm. Eventually Rose and Theresa will also make
homes in New York, all three of the girls sending money back home to Donegal. Mary’s depression
eventually lifts, but in a few short years her life is cut short, too, leaving just Ellen and brother,
Jim. That steady, predictable life Ellen knew for 13 years is barely a memory now.
As expected, Ellen also ends up in New York, reunited with her three sisters. Quickly finding a job, she
meets up with a quirky co-worker, Bonnie, and becomes her roommate. The two young women experience
the heady Village scene, and while Bonnie enjoys living life on the edge, Ellen holds fast to her principles.
Were it not for Bonnie, Ellen might never have met John, the man she perhaps impetuously
marries. Through John, we are given hope that Ellen will now find true happiness and stability. But it is
not to be, not yet. There are crises to overcome, and powerful challenges to her faith. Just when all looks
bleak and black, a wisp of Irish magic appears and begins to heal Ellen’s wounds.
The author pays special tribute to his mother in Wind and Shadow: An Irish Romance, which is adapted from her true story,
blending fact with fiction. Ellen Rawdon is a woman of grace, strength, and rare courage. Like Ireland
itself, her story is one of faith and hope winning out over adversity. A victim of tragedy on two shores,
somewhere in New York City Ellen is forced to abandon her dreams, but she never loses that good Irish
common sense that Philip and Mary instilled in her all those years ago.