"Not for the faint of heart, Long's story is a gritty, grueling, and heartbreaking testament to one girl's unbreakable spirit."-- Publishers Weekly,nbsp; starred review
When Martha Long's feckless mother hooks up with the Jackser ("that bandy aul bastard"), and starts havingnbsp;more babies, the abuse and poverty in the house grow more acute. Martha is regularly sent out to beg andnbsp;more often steal, and her wiles (as a child of 7, 8) are often the only thing keeping food on the table. Jackser isnbsp;a master of paranoid anger and outburst, keeping the children in an unheated tenement, unable to go tonbsp;school, at the ready for his unpredictable rages. Then Martha is sent by Jackser to a man he knows innbsp;exchange for the price of a few cigarettes. She is nine. She is filthy, lice-ridden, outcast. Martha and Manbsp;escape to England, but for an itinerant Irishwoman finding work in late 1950s England is a near impossibility.nbsp;Martha treasures the time alone with her mother, but amazingly Ma pines for Jackser and they eventuallynbsp;return to Dublin and the other children. And yet there are prized cartoon magazines, the occasional hiddennbsp;penny to buy the children sweets, the glimpse of loving family life in other houses, and Martha's hope that shenbsp;will soon be old enough to make her own way.
Virtually uneducated, Martha Long is natural-born storyteller. Written in the vernacular of the day, the reader isnbsp;tempted to speak like Martha for the rest of a day (and don't let me hear yer woman roarin' bout it neither).nbsp;One can't help but cheer on this mischievous, quick-witted, and persistent little girl who has captured heartsnbsp;across Europe.