When I was approached about reviewing William H.A. Williams’ novel Tho’ It Were Ten Thousand Miles I was at first hesitant and then curious. As a reader I think it’s important to step out of your comfort zone and read things that you normally wouldn’t. This book fell into that category. I kept asking myself, “How could anyone conceivably write a convincing love story where the love interests have a 45 year age gap between them?” With my curiosity peaked, I dove right in.
This is not your normal love story. On a normal, uneventful day, Seamus O’Rourke, a 65-year-old college professor in the Midwest, comes across a YouTube video of 20-year-old singer named Fiona MacKenzie. He is instantly captivated by her beautiful voice and striking looks. Although this seems to be nothing more than a far-flung crush, Seamus is astounded when he finds out that she attends the very college at which he is a professor. Despite their quite obvious age difference, Seamus decides to pursue this singing beauty. For her part, Fiona is a bit skeptical of this older man who begins to show her more attention than the average student/professor relationship warrants. Already vulnerable from the tragic loss of her father and the resulting emptiness that she feels, Fiona tries to put on a bold front to keep others at bay from her sorrow. Seamus is undaunted, however, and their romance is a delicate balance between age, wit, love, loss, and public persona. What will happen to this age-defying romance? What will Seamus and Fiona learn from each other?
Upon finishing this novel I found that there were things I strongly liked and disliked about this work. The most interesting thing about the novel is the way the entire story is told. I’m not giving anything away by saying that Seamus is dead when the book begins. You don’t know how/why he died, but you know that he wrote the story of his and Fiona’s love and that she is reading it after his funeral. The story is then presented to the reader as a dual first-person narrative. I have to say I’ve never read a story in this format before and found that it was a perfect way for the story to be told. A relationship is between two people, each with his/her own thoughts and views on it. To have their story told from both perspectives at the same time was interesting and kept my attention throughout the novel. It also created a good pace which kept the story flowing at all times.
Another aspect of the novel I REALLY enjoyed was the fluidity of the writing. The plethora of poetry, Irish and Scottish folk songs, and lyrical quotes in the novel beautifully added to the story. Seamus’s character is a man of another generation and time; he uses poetry to woo a woman (a lost art), and it was truly romantic reading his quest to win Fiona’s heart.
Speaking of wooing Fiona, I have to admit that at times the 45-year-old age difference was 100% awkward. There are sexual scenes in the book that were a bit uncomfortable to read. I don’t consider myself a prude when it comes to reading sex scenes in books, but reading about a 65-year-old man having sex with a 20-year-old just felt odd to me. Had the age difference been less (say 30 years?) I think the novel would have worked better. At one point I stopped thinking that she was 20 and made her 30 instead, which made me able to relax with the writing.
All in all this is an interesting take on the May/December romance, and it is one that kept my attention throughout. I do recommend the novel, but suggest that you go into it telling yourself that Fiona isn’t 20. If you look beyond the age difference you’ll find a uniquely creative novel that is skillfully and lyrically written with a huge dose of Celtic lore.
3 out of 5 Stars
Tho’ It Were Ten Thousand Miles by William H.A. Williams
Paperback 300 pages
Special thanks to Jessie at Author Solutions for sending my review copy!
One lucky person will have the opportunity to win their own copy of Tho’ It Were Ten Thousand Miles by William H.A. Williams. Simply leave a comment below by midnight on Monday, March 5, 2012. Winner will be picked at random and announced on Tuesday, March 6, 2012. Giveaway open to residents of US and Canada only. Good luck!