Happy Bookers Discussion Group

Next meeting: Wednesday, September 23
at 2:00 pm and 7:00 p.m.

The Graves Are Walking

by John Kelly

A magisterial account of the worst disasters to strike humankind--the Great Irish Potato Famine--conveyed as lyrical narrative history. Deeply researched, compelling in its details, and startling in its conclusions about the appalling decisions behind a tragedy of epic proportions, John Kelly's retelling of the awful story of Ireland's great hunger will resonate today as history that speaks to our own times.

Religious dogma, anti-relief sentiment, and racial and political ideology combined to result in an almost inconceivable disaster of human suffering. This is ultimately a story of triumph over perceived destiny: for fifty million Americans of Irish heritage, the saga of a broken people fleeing crushing starvation and remaking themselves in a new land is an inspiring story of revival.

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Discussion Questions

Are you convinced by Kelly's argument that the famine did *not* come from a policy of deliberate genocide?

In what ways was the viewpoint of the Moralists wrong-headed? Can their point of view be defended at all?

How did the strengths and weaknesses of individual men impact the famine? Who were the villains and the heroes of the disaster?

How did the English theory of laissez-faire economics affect the disaster? Why might it have made sense for England, but not Ireland?

What role did the system of absentee landlords have on the tragedy?

Scientists in Ireland are researching a genetically modified potato that resists blight. While famine is unlikely to recur in Ireland, other countries are still vulnerable to blight. Should research into GMO potatoes be encouraged?


Official website

Author interview

The Irish Potato Famine in World History in Context (Library Card required)

Upcoming Selections:

October - Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng

November - Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi


Happy Bookers selections are chosen by the participants.  Suggest a book for discussion

The Happy Bookers is Phillipsburg Library's monthly book discussion group.  We meet on the fourth Wednesday of the month at 2:00 p.m. and 7:00 p.m.  Newcomers are always welcome, and no registration is necessary.  Call Deb at 908-454-3712 for more information.

Can't make the meeting? Visit our Happy Bookers Group on Goodreads and add your thoughts there!