Novelist Tom Phelan’s We Were Rich and We Didn’t Know It: A Memoir of My Irish Boyhood is a masterfully written account of growing up in Ireland in the 1940s. Phelan, who was born and reared in Mountmellick, County Laois, spent his formative years working with his wise and demanding father, JohnJoe, as he sought to wrest a livelihood from a farm that was often wet, muddy, and back-breaking. It was a time before rural electrification, the telephone, and indoor plumbing; a time when the main modes of travel were bicycle and animal cart; a time when small farmers struggled to survive and turkey eggs were hatched in the kitchen cupboard; a time when the Church exerted enormous control over Ireland.
“A nimble exercise in storytelling in which Tom shapes his recollections into a series of richly detailed vignettes….Plain, honest, funny, occasionally sad and rich in material detail, this wonderful memoir….This is the real thing.”—Newsday
“A tender recollection of growing up on a farm in Ireland in the 1940s. In precise, vibrant prose, novelist Phelan creates…a captivating portrait of a bygone time.”—Kirkus Reviews, starred review
“At a time when we have so much and are satisfied with none of it, the story of We Were Rich and We Didn’t Know It is one of grace and beauty.”—For the Love of Books
“Phelan’s memoir of his boyhood is exceptional…Phelan’s prose has an unpretentious beauty…With rich detail and sensitivity, We Were Rich translates for us a rural world that has disappeared.”—Minneapolis Star Tribune