CM . . .
. Volume X Number 6. . . . November 14, 2003
"There's not much point looking round a place where I don't intend to stay," said Declan. He glared at his uncle. "Now that you know how I feel about being forced to come to the wild country, perhaps you will be kind enough to send me back. I'm well able to take care of myself.
"I won't stay. If you won't send me back, then I'll make my own way somehow."
Matthew gave Kate a doleful look.
So it is, that after his father is shot, and his mother and sister are killed in a bomb explosion in Belfast, 13-year-old Declan Doyle finds himself yanked away from membership in a street gang bent on destroying the "Prods and the Brits" and sent to live with his uncle in Canada.
Young Declan is an angry young man, determined to avenge the deaths of his parents and sister. When he is forced, against his will, to relocate with his Uncle Matthew and Aunt Kate to Otter Harbour, near Vancouver, British Columbia, Declan is consumed with schemes of how to get himself back to Ireland. After meeting the other members of his aunt and uncle's household - Ana, a feisty orphan about Declan's age, Thomas, a 10 year-old Mongoloid boy who was abandoned at birth, and Miss Ritter, a forgetful senior whose house burned down leaving her homeless - Declan pours all of his energy into his escape, vowing not to be another one of his uncle's "fix-ups."
Stealing boats and hopping buses, Declan manages to get himself to the Vancouver airport where, after sneaking aboard an international flight, he is caught and taken back to his uncle's. Seeing how determined Declan is to leave, his Uncle Matthew makes a deal with him - give the whole thing a try until the end of December, including going to school, and if, by then, Declan still wants to leave, his uncle will pay for the flight back to Ireland.
Declan agrees and embarks on a new way of life in the small BC harbor town. Surrounded by the quiet majesty of the mountains and the peaceful solitude of the forest, he becomes part of a community far removed from the violent streets of Belfast. In his struggle to "fit in," he manages to befriend Ana, Thomas, and a First Nations classmate, Joe Iron Eagle, who each pull him into their lives in unique and caring ways. When the end of December rolls around, Declan is ready to pack up and head back to Ireland, or is he? How will he choose which life he wants to live?
Heneghan has woven a heartfelt struggle of human emotions and loyalties through the character of Declan Doyle. This 13-year-old's struggles are real and raw, mixed with a strong sense of duty to family and country - longing for a life he can call his own.
First written and published ten years ago by Penguin Books, this 2003 republishing by Orca gives any young reader the opportunity to explore the reasons behind an angry boy's terrorist activities and his ultimate life-choices through the lens of a world that has seen many changes since 1994. In that respect, the book may have benefitted from a minor rewrite in order to create strong believability in Declan's escape efforts. If the story has taken place in 1994, this might be maintained with an author's note (part of the prologue), or, if in present day, with an updated version of the "airport escape." In light of "9/11," young readers might find it difficult to accept how easily Declan is able to sneak aboard an international flight out of the Vancouver Airport.
Even with this questionable scene and a predictable ending, Torn Away depicts a the genuine picture of a young Irish boy who wants to remain faithful to the family he was once a part of and the feelings and desires he has for the place and people who are offering him a new home.
Jocelyn A. Dimm is a doctoral student and sessional instructor at the University of Victoria where she teaches drama education and young adult literature in the Faculty of Education.
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other reproduction is prohibited without permission.
Copyright © the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.