||Sept. 28, 2009
An Irish couple are gifted with an unusual wedding present: managing a rundown winery in upstate new York's Finger Lakes.
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A Sudden Gift of Fate
Irish newlyweds Fergal and Brídgeen Griffin receive an intriguing proposal for a wedding gift. Fergal’s cousin, Colm O’Brien, asks them to manage a Finger Lakes winery that he bought as an investment. They accept his gift of fate, but when they move upstate from Queens, see the run-down Keuka Lake property and meet its surly winemaker, they realize it will be quite a challenge getting from grapevine to bottle. Meanwhile, their best friends Maeve Kenny and Andy Krall face a challenge of their own — separation while he gets experimental cell therapy in Europe for paralysis sustained in a car crash. As both couples face unsettled futures, will they be able to keep hope alive?
Fergal sipped his Guinness as he pondered this sudden gift of fate. It wasn’t too many years ago that he’d wandered alone one evening down the strand at Lahinch, dragging his bare feet across the buff-colored sand. He pushed up the sleeves of his ribbed gray sweater that matched the color of his soul’s mood. A pub door opened on the promenade and the sound of mournful uilleann pipes slipped out, a perfect soundtrack for the moment.
Earlier that day he’d been rejected for yet another job. It was all so discouraging. Three of his friends had moved south to Limerick where they found high-paying info-tech posts. All the rest were working at pharmaceutical companies in Dublin or Galway. Fergal, unfortunately, didn’t have the skills or experience needed for either, and felt like he’d be stuck forever in Ennistymon.
His education had ended abruptly after passing his leaving certificate exams. Fergal recalled the day the results arrived at his school. He clutched a small envelope as he ran joyously down Main Street to the family pub where he planned to tell everyone the good news, just as an ambulance was pulling away. His mother watched grim-faced from the doorway.
“Yer Da’s gone. Killed dead carryin’ a keg from the lorry into the pub. It’s a wonder his bleedin’ heart didn’t give out sooner. Ruined by rheumatic fever when he was not much younger than yerself.” He was stunned, and caught the bar towel she tossed at him. “I’m off then, to pray for his soul. Mind the pub ’til I get back.”
She walked away still wearing her apron as Fergal looked inside the dark, smoky room at thirsty customers. Tears welled in his eyes but he didn’t let one escape. He pushed back his shoulders, took a deep breath and stepped behind the bar.
By then he’d been at it for 10 years. Fergal wasn’t the bitter type, it’s just that he hated his fate being sealed without having any say in the matter. He kept wondering, what if things had gone differently?
That evening in Lahinch, he’d paused to watch the sunset fan saffron-colored light through steel blue clouds drifting over the bay. Off to the northwest, lights were coming on in Liscannor village. The wind was kicking up the waves as the tide rolled in. Each pound of the surf felt like nails hammering into his coffin.
What lay on the other side of that horizon, he wondered. Over there in America, where the sun was still high in the sky, millions of hopeful dreams were in full bloom and brilliant careers were being made. Not for him, though. He waded into the water getting the bottoms of his jeans soaked and wondered, should he let the waves smother him or try to swim to the faraway shores of America?
Bill Jaker, WSKG Radio's Off The Page show:
The Irish are famous for many things — music and dance, beautiful linen, old castles, whiskey — but cultivating vineyards and making wine hasn’t been one of them. There is a fine Celtic concoction called Meade, but you wouldn’t be likely to find a Chardonnay or Riesling from the Emerald Isle. So when a newlywed Irish couple receives the keys to a run-down winery in the Finger Lakes Region of New York it does not bode to be the most successful grafting that’s been attempted. The new life of Fergal and Brídgeen Griffin is only one angle in Mary Pat Hyland’s new novel “A Sudden Gift of Fate”. There is also the powerful relationship between Binghamtonians Maeve Kenny and Andy Krall — a relationship that was nurtured by Andy’s rescue of Maeve after her promising New York City public relations career fell apart. She hopes to find her way back to personal stability as much as she hopes for new stem cell treatment that will free Andy from his paraplegia.
“A Sudden Gift of Fate” is the sequel to Mary Pat Hyland’s 2008 debut novel “The Cyber Miracles”. She has again drawn on her own Irish heritage and upstate New York upbringing to write of places and situations she knows well. The novel is filled with descriprions of procedures for growing grapes and making wine, familiar geography of the Finger Lakes and Southern Tier of New York and expressions in Irish Gaelige, which Mary Pat speaks fluently and teaches (there is a glossary at the end of the book). Fergal and Bridgeen rename their winery Lochmare, Irish for “finger lake”.
“Wow, look at the size of their farmhouse!” [Maeve] said as they pulled into the driveway. “Not too shabby for starting off a wine empire, ” Andy laughed. “That barn must be the winery.”
A red and white border collie rushed down the hill barking at them as the side ramp extended for Andy to roll out of the van.
“Friend or foe?” Andy asked.
“Can’t tell,” Maeve said.
“Misty! Ná bí dána!” Fergal yelled from the porch as he and Brídgeen came out to greet them. “Téigh abhaile!“ The dog stopped barking, muttered a bit, then turned and ran back up the hill toward home.
“How’d you like that for a welcome,” Fergal said. “Didn’t know the dogs speak Irish here, did yez?”
“Fergal the dog whisperer,” Andy said, giving him a fist bump. “How the feck are you?”
“Yer lookin’ at a wine maker, mo chara. Can ye believe it? I’m still waitin’ to wake up from this and find I was just langers after drinkin’ a pint of Colm’s poitín.”
— from “A Sudden Gift of Fate”
Just as “The Cyber Miracles” turned on creation of a website that drew surfers seeking a miracle in their lives, and whose wishes were granted, at Lochmare there is a well whose waters have unexplainable healing powers. The success of Lochmare is hindered by the delicate “living art” of the wine industry, even as it’s advanced through the cooperation of other wine growers. The winery and the Binghamton bakery where Maeve finds a job are caught up in the machinations of an ambitious State Senator from downstate who comes on the scene with his own upstate economic development scheme, and with eyes for Maeve. (Mary Pat’s senatorial sub-plot seems to echo some recent developments in Albany). Maeve is further distressed when Andy leaves for medical treatment in Belgium and unwittingly attracts the attentions of an overaffectionate physical therapist.
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Reader Reviews for "A Sudden Gift of Fate: Book 2 Maeve Kenny Series"
|Reviewed by MaryPat Hyland
|(NOTE: These have been e-mailed to me by my readers.)
Ingrid Jordak, upstate NY:
A Sudden Gift of Fate, Mary Pat Hyland’s sequel to The Cyber Miracles, continues the stories of Maeve, Andy, Fergal and Bridgeen in the beautiful setting of upstate New York. This endearing foursome, that so many readers of the first book fell in love with, face new challenges with Irish wit and a generally upbeat outlook on life. They’re a group of friends that anyone would want to hang out with.
Set largely in Binghamton and on Keuka Lake, the novel takes the reader through the trials and tribulations of starting up a winery and an organic bakery with a pro-small-business environmental consciousness and an emphasis on the local agriculture and organic food movements. The dialogue sometimes makes you laugh out loud and often makes you smile.
A Sudden Gift of Fate is a fun and fast read. The next step is for both novels to appear on the silver screen where they can give My Big Fat Greek Wedding and Under the Tuscan Sun a run for the money.
Mary Pat Tuxbury, author, Florence, Montana:
Pour a glass of wine and sit down by the fire; the scéalaí, (storyteller), is in the house.
A Sudden Gift of Fate, by Mary Pat Hyland, is pure dead brilliant. Hyland takes you on a read from the west of Ireland to New York state in this fast-paced novel.
Fergal and Brídgeen Griffin are newlyweds planning a quiet life in Ireland, when wealthy cousin Colm, gifts them a failed winery in upstate New York. With only their Irish charm, they arrive at the Finger Lakes to start anew.
Maeve Kenny, on the other hand, has a life of uncertainty. Her love interest, Andy Krall, is not only younger, but is wheelchair-bound from a spinal cord injury. Brídgeen and Maeve share a long-standing friendship. Their sisterhood keeps them hopeful for tomorrow as they make their way through each day.
Maeve's stormy highs and lows give her cause to cross paths with multifarious characters, who give her insights about life. Each story brings something to her soul which she adds to her knowledge to find the strength and inner peace to carry on.
A Sudden Gift of Fate is a sequel to Hyland's novel, The Cyber Miracles. The author's fast-paced journalistic style keeps the reader turning pages. The use of Irish language brings the lilt needed to round out the persistent dark humor and pragmatism found in Irish speakers.
|Reviewed by Anne Woodard
|A Sudden Gift of Fate - A (Grape) Smashing Success!
I have eagerly been awaiting the arrival of "A Sudden Gift of Fate", the sequel to Mary Pat Hyland's first novel, "The Cyber Miracles"! I especially was interested in finding out how she would weave New York's Finger Lakes wine country into her new book. Not only has she successfully captured the spirit and excitement of the Finger Lakes wine industry, she has given us a glimpse as to what goes on behind the scenes in producing award winning wines! Each chapter starts with a short description of the grapes used in winemaking and their history!
With the beautiful Finger Lakes setting as a backdrop, Hyland weaves stories of the 2 main couples from her first novel into 2 compelling story lines that gracefully move in and out of each other as they follow each couple through their joys, frustrations, and celebrations. The theme of HOPE is central to both storylines and blends the stories together as if they were ingredients in one of Maeve's bakery treats.
As many of the characters in this book are from Ireland, Hyland's command of Gaelic is a definite plus in her book, and conversations flow easily and natually. Her knowledge of Irish customs provides a great source of backdrops for various scenes in the book. This coupled with her hands on knowledge of the Finger Lakes region makes for very believable situations and conversations!
I literally could not put this book down. It moved at a good pace, and held my interest from start to finish. I loved the characters, both the new and the old, and genuinely missed reading about them when the book was done. This book is another stellar offering from Hyland...I can't wait for the next book in the series!!!