The Law of Dreams: A Novel (Paperback)

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The Law of Dreams by Peter Behrens is historical fiction about the bleak days of the Irish potato famine. Peter’s forbearers emigrated from Ireland to Canada in the days of the famine.  This is a book he needed to write, a searing look at the type of hardships faced by his family.  In the mid 1800’s Ireland was hit by a double whammy, potato blight and the black fever.  Land owners were Englishmen interested in the bottom line.  If potatoes were not going to be profitable, livestock would be raised instead.  All those tenant farmers could be dispensed with; livestock would not require their labor.  Englishmen instructed their overseers to evict the tenants.  Troops were called in, cabins burned and a country endured the shame of poor, homeless, starving people trying to live under the hedgerows.  Fergus had lived his short life always on the same farm, the son of tenant farmers. In return for working the landlord’s crops the tenants were allowed their tiny cottage and tiny plot of land to grow potatoes. Fergus is in shock from the death of his family, reeling from the loss of his home.  Weakened by fever and starvation he joins the throngs of other poor people on the road.  It is a violent, hard time in Ireland.  Many leave, going elsewhere looking for a job, food, and shelter. Fergus joins the tide of human cargo heading first to England to work on the railway then on to Canada.  .

— Deon Stonehouse


Driven from the only home he has known during Ireland’s Great Hunger of 1847, Fergus O’Brien makes the harrowing journey from County Clare to America, traveling with bold girls, pearl boys, navvies, and highwaymen. Along the way, Fergus meets his three passionate loves–Phoebe, Luke, and Molly–vivid, unforgettable characters, fresh and willful.

Based on Peter Behrens’s own family history, The Law of Dreams is lyrical, emotional, and thoroughly extraordinary–a searing tale of ardent struggle and ultimate perseverance.

About the Author

Peter Behrens's first novel, The Law of Dreams, won the Governor General’s Award, Canada’s most prestigious book prize, and has been published in nine languages. The New York Times Book Review called his second novel, The O’Briens, “a major accomplishment.” He is also the author of the novel Carry Me and two collections of short stories, Night Driving and Travelling Light. His stories and essays have appeared in The Atlantic, The New York Times, and many anthologies. Awards he has received include a Wallace Stegner Fellowship in Creative Writing at Stanford University. A native of Montreal, he is currently a fellow at Harvard University’s Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study.

Praise For…

“Absorbing, unsparing, and beautifully written . . . [a] masterly novel.”
–The New York Times Book Review

“Stunningly lyric . . . a work of richly empathetic imagination that reminds us once again of how powerful historical fiction can be in skilled hands.”
–Los Angeles Times

“Superb . . . an emotional epic bearing echoes of Melville and Ondaatje, conveying scents and shimmers of a vanished world under the skin of our own.”
–Jonathan Lethem, author of You Don’t Love Me Yet

“Extraordinary . . . a novel that animates the past this vibrantly should make volumes of mere history blush.”
–The Washington Post Book World

“Sprawling, cinematic, exquisitely detailed, exactingly researched, and keenly felt . . . a powerful work of excavation that achieves what historical fiction often can’t–credibility, along with a sense of the transportive.”
–Boston Phoenix

“Riveting . . . Behrens turns the archetypal immigrant’s journey into Homeric epic.”
–The Providence Journal

“A beautifully written, poetically inspired tale of heroism, love, yes and sex, and the triumph of the human spirit.”
–Malachy McCourt, author of A Monk Swimming
Product Details
ISBN: 9780812978001
ISBN-10: 0812978005
Publisher: Random House Trade Paperbacks
Publication Date: August 28th, 2007
Pages: 416
Language: English