Eilis, a young woman who lives with her mother and sister, has a good head for math and dreams of being a bookkeeper, but cannot seem to find a job in her home town in Ireland. When an Irish priest from Brooklyn, NY comes to visit the town, he notices Eilis and promises to take her under his wing and help her get to Brooklyn where there are more opportunities. Eilis struggles with the different culture and the absence of her family, but in many ways she is very successful. When she is confronted with a serious trauma in her family, her newfound confidence is tested and she must prove herself once again.
The beauty of this book is the writing, which is uniquely simple, calm and straight-forward. There is little description, but everything is depicted clearly enough to visualize it all. There are certainly facts to the story but it is also filled with the thoughts and conjecture that Eilis has. It is a pure and intelligent writing style that is easy to read and flows smoothly.
The story is also valuable as a history lesson. It is the immigrant experience of a lone newcomer to a foreign land where everything is different, from the foods to the clothing styles, to the basic customs and it is an adjustment at each and every step. Even as Eilis has support from the priest who sponsored her, she still has to cope with the judgement of those around her and she struggles with this. It is really the story of all Americans, as most of us have been or come from immigrants, no matter how many generations ago.