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Check It Out: Days Without End by Sebastian Barry

This is Helen Rigdon with the Sioux City Public Library, and you’re listening to Check It Out.

Today, I’m recommending Days Without End by Sebastian Barry. This is one of twelve exciting titles from the 2022 Adult Summer Reading List. Days Without End is a coming of age story about friendship, survival, love, and the tragedies of war. It was the Costa Book of the Year award winner and was longlisted for the Man Booker Prize in 2017.

The story starts in the 1850s and ends after the Civil War. A young man Thomas NcNulty has crossed the Atlantic to rebuild his life in America. Thomas’ family were all dead from famine in Ireland, his country “starved in her stocking feet. And she had no stockings.” This is more than matched by the horrors he encounters in the US. At the beginning of the story, Thomas teams up with another young man named John Cole, both become dancers, rigged out in women’s clothing to entertain miners starved of female company; a so called “prairie fairy.” Once the bloom of youth departs, the two volunteer for the US army at the age of 17. Following the Oregon trail to California, Thomas recalls, “We knew in our hearts our work was to be Indians.”

After participating in brutal raids on Indian settlements, Thomas and John leave the army due to John’s health and they return to Missouri. John, Thomas, and Winona, a young Sioux girl, go on to create a make-shift family of sorts which gives a redefinition of family, especially for the time period this story is set. It’s written with startlingly beautiful sentences and a narrative that propels the readers on to the next page.

Check out Days Without End and other titles from the 2022’s adult summer reading book list at the Sioux City Public Library today!

Support for Check It Out on Siouxland Public Media comes from Verde Outdoor Media.

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