Early on in Booking Passage, Thomas Lynch describes the quintessentially Irish funeral held for his cousin Nora Lynch, who died-compos mentis and full of vim until nearly the end-four months into her ninetieth year. Never married, Nora had lived in the family cottage in Moveen West, County Clare, her entire life, maintaining a few cows, chickens, and fields for decades-at first with her bachelor brother Tommy, and after his death on her own.
That cousin Thomas Lynch would attend Nora’s funeral was a foregone conclusion. He had first met her in 1970 when, as a young man, he’d left home in Milford, Michigan, to get in touch with his Irish roots. As it turned out, those roots quickly grabbed onto him: he has been making the tranatlantic trip on a nearly annual basis since that time.
Over the years he’d grown close to Nora, helping her as and when he could. In 1982, for example, he and a friend finally decided that Nora deserved indoor plumbing; they did the job themselves. Later, the gift of a television set eased her long, lonely evenings.
Also present at Nora’s funeral was Lynch’s brother, Pat. Though he had met Nora on her occasional visits to America, the trip to the funeral was his first to the old country. The experience had the force of revelation. Having known little else but family lore and the trivialization that Lynch calls “the annual mid-March Oiyrish,” with its pints of green beer and...