In my humble opinion, Hannah Kent has cemented her place as a must read historical fiction author. The Good People is her second novel in the genre and it did not disappoint. Taking place in rural 19th century Ireland, Nora has suddenly lost her daughter, gained a grandson to raise, then lost her husband. Now all alone, Nora realizes that raising her 4 year old grandson, Micheal, on her own will be much harder without her husbands’ help. She hires a hand, Mary, to help care for the unusual child who is failing to thrive and screams all the night long. He is weak, cannot walk and does not speak. When it becomes obvious that having a helping hand will not ease the burden that is Micheal, Nora enlists the help of an elderly woman named Nance who is know for her knowledge of healing and traditional (yet superstitious) spiritual cleansings. Nance deems Micheal a ‘changeling’, a weakling left by the fairies when The Good People took the real Micheal away. The two women proceed with the old traditions for giving a changeling back to The Good People in return for the original child back.
Kent’s writing has a style all its own: While being easy to read, the reader feels completely submerged into the time and culture within the pages. The settings and characters seem so completely authentic it feels as if you are getting a real experience in the time and place rather than a more glamorous Hollywood version. I feel like I got a very true Irish folklore lesson in reading this book and I enjoyed it immensely. While the story did move along at a slow pace, I still give this book 5 out of 5 stars. If you are interested in historical fiction, and you can be patient with a book, you will love this one.