Sunday, October 19, 2014

Review: Land of Dreams by Kate Kerrigan

Land of Dreams by Kate Kerrigan is the third book in the series which features Ellie Hogan who leaves Ireland and starts her life anew in New York. In this installment, Ellie ends up in LA after her oldest son takes off there to pursue a career in acting. While in LA, Ellie, now almost 50, reflects on her life to date and has some important revelations about how she has arrived in this point in life and what matters to her most.

When Ellie's son Leo runs away from his boarding school to follow an agent to LA to be part of the movies, Ellie's maternal instinct kicks in and she immediately packs up to travel across the country and bring her boy home. Recently widowed when her second husband is killed in Pearl Harbor, Ellie is alone again and her boys are all she has - they are her purpose and she must protect them. She intends to locate her son and immediately return to NY with him but when she sees her shy, reserved son come alive at the prospect of a career in acting she relents and decides to stay while Leo completes his contract with Paramount. Always one to gather a community around her, Ellie brings out the elderly Bridie, an Irish woman that has been like a mother to Ellie and a Nan to her sons, to live with her and the boys. She also takes in Freddie, Leo's down on his luck agent, and Freddie's vacuous girlfriend Crystal. Together they pass their days adjusting to life in sunny California at the fringes of the glamorous Hollywood lifestyle.

Despite swearing off men following the loss of two husbands, Ellie finds herself captivated and pursued by Stan, a Polish composer who writes scores for Hollywood films. Ellie is her own worst enemy in her relationship with Stan and tries to sabotage it at every turn but she can't deny her feelings for him and constantly finds herself back with him. While coping with her relationship with Stan, she is also facing the decline of her dear friend, Bridie. Bridie's tough exterior can't hide the onset of dementia and Ellie must dedicate herself to keeping Bridie safe while maintaining the older woman's dignity.

My Thoughts
I really enjoyed the first two books in this series (my review of Ellis Island and my review of City of Hope) so I was happy to "meet" Ellie again in this final installment. She is as feisty as ever but her fire is tinged with self awareness - she is now fifty and spends much of the book reflecting on the choices that have gotten her to this point in her life and seeing patterns in her behavior. This maturity in Ellie is appealing and tempers some of her more impulsive schemes. Perhaps my favorite part of this book is the relationship between Ellie and Bridie - tough Bridie tells it like it us but also is vulnerable as old age begins to take its toll.  She is aware that she is failing but is also fiercely proud and fights to maintain her dignity.  Ellie rises to this challenge and takes care of Bridie as she would if Bridie were her mother.  Bridie provides continuity in Ellie's story as she has been with her since she first arrived in the US and she also creates an opportunity for Ellie to show her gentler side as she cares for the older woman.

Although it is the third book in a series, Land of Dreams can stand on his own - the author references what happened in the first two books enough to make the connections to this story. But I feel the real strength in the book is Ellie and you can appreciate her so much more if you have read the first two books.  If you read Land of Dreams first, go back and read the other two!


  1. I love immigrant stories and want to read this whole series. It sounds so good!

  2. I just finished this one, and I appreciated Ellie's journey through middle age. This book felt very different from the other two for me.

  3. I really enjoyed this, too. Seeing Bridie age and decline was so sad though.