Escape From Home is a children’s historical fiction novel by AVI, the first of the two Beyond the Western Sea novels.
In 1851 Ireland, fifteen-year-old Maura O’Connell and her twelve-year-old brother Patrick are living day to day knowing that at any moment they will be turned out of their home. Poverty is terrible in their village and when a letter arrives from their father containing the money to purchase tickets to join him in America, where he went to find work, it feels like salvation.
Yet the lifetime spent in Ireland is too hard for their mother to give up, and Maura finds herself and her brother fighting to get to the ship that will get them to America all on their own…
Laurence Kirkle is an eleven-year-old son to an esteemed English lord. He finds himself at the brunt of his elder brother’s jealousy and cruelty every day and finds no comfort in his parents. He despises his life and desires to get away from them – his life doesn’t seem to ever improve, but instead worsens. After a particularly bad lashing at the hand of his gleeful brother, Laurence runs away with dreams of America.
All three children have hopes of a brighter future of freedom and prosperity – but getting on the ship that will set sail to America is a difficult, danger-fraught journey. They face theft, liars, hunger, loneliness, and those who purposely take advantage of their vulnerabilities of age and lack of protection.
Will they ever make it out of Liverpool?
When I read Murder at Midnight by AVI, which was the first book I’d read by him, I wasn’t so sure I was fan. It was a fine book, but didn’t really get me involved – and the writing felt younger-oriented than I preferred.
However, with Escape From Home I was completely and totally amazed by how opposite my opinion was here. The characters are mostly quite young, yes, but the style of prose AVI uses here is ageless. In fact, there was an old-fashioned, classic feel that I got from Escape From Home that I not only loved, but gave the novel a sense of authenticity. Almost as if the book was written in 1851!
Escape From Home makes the hopelessness and poverty of the O’Connell’s life in Ireland potent. It’s a scary, suspenseful journey for liberty, prosperity, and a brighter future – though the task of getting to the ship leaves them alone, young, and defenseless.
This is an adventure that is frightening, forlorn, and gripping. The varied paths of the characters find ways of crossing, which somehow never feels coincidental – more fateful. AVI is superb at providing a vivid, detail-oriented historical setting. But his greatest achievement in Escape From Home, in my opinion, is how much he made me care for Maura, Patrick, and Laurence.
Of course, as this is a two-part story, so Escape From Home ends on a cliffhanger! The second book is called Into the Storm – and there will be a review of it this Friday!