My rating: 3 of 5 stars
After the death of her husband, Fintan, Ellen Boisvert sets about planning the rest of her life. She is a successful, 39-year-old teacher living in Boston, set free from a difficult marriage by fate. However, a year after Fintan's death, Ellen discovers that her immigrant husband was not an orphan as he had claimed, but that his mother is still living on the family farm on the west coast of Ireland.
Confronted with this sudden revelation, Ellen makes the decision to travel to Ireland in an attempt to find her mother-in-law, Jo, and to discover the truth behind her husband's decision to pretend both parents dead.
Ellen's trip to Ireland to meet Jo takes her on an unexpected journey of sacrifice, selflessness and truth. What Ellen learns about her husband, his mother and the little community in which they grew up would have been enough to scare most people away for good - but not Ellen! Ellen makes the difficult decision to stay with Jo through the final stages of her illness, and then after her death make the changes necessary to right the wrongs Jo made during her life.
Dance Lessons is a novel on the complexities of family; how the decisions made by parents may lead their children to wander through a life of misery and regret. It's not difficult to pity Jo for the life she was forced into taking, and it's even easier to feel sorry for Fintan for the childhood he had to endure as a result. As for Ellen, she is admirable for her determination to do the right thing.
Thanks to Aine Greaney for inviting me to read this novel: It was a great way for me to pass the slow days at work, and although quite different to what I would normally read, I really enjoyed the story. I especially recommend it for anyone taking part in the Ireland Reading Challenge.