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So This Is How It Ends: A Writer In Grandmother’s Footsteps

25/04/2011

In a nice piece of symmetry Kathleen MacMahon’s novel, So This Is How It Ends, recently signed by Little Brown (UK) and Grand Central (US),  will be published in 2012, the centenary of the birth of Mary Lavin, the author’s grandmother.

‘My memory of  grandmother as a writer,’ Kathleen MacMahon said, ‘is of her in bed with a wooden tray writing, with endless pots of tea. That must have lodged in my brain at some point as being quite a nice job.’

So This Is How It Ends is a love story about a man who crosses the Atlantic to Ireland, as the Celtic Tiger collapses, and falls in love with a distant cousin. It is 90 years since the nine-year old Mary Lavin left the place of her birth in East Walpole, outside Boston,  and sailed the Atlantic to Ireland on the SS Winefriedian with her mother. Mary Lavin’s transition from America to Athenry, her mother’s birth-place, is wonderfully captured in her short story ‘Lemonade’.

I visited East Walpole last summer, travelling along Boston’s Washington Street that seemed to go on forever. I walked in the Francis William Bird Park, where Mary Lavin played as a child when her father was employed on the Bird estate.

Mary Lavin would, I imagine, have been thrilled by the writing success of her grand-daughter. The publication of So This Is How It Ends will be an appropriate event to mark the centenary of Kathleen MacMahon’s grandmother’s birth.

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