This is a grand saga that starts with Irish immigrants to the backwoods of the Canadian north and follows members of the family as they make their way through the brave new world of the Americas in the 19th century. A strong narrative sparkling with finely drawn characters, makes this novel an emotional and satisfying ride. — Karen Frank
The O’Briens is an unforgettable saga of love, loss, and change spanning half a century in the lives of a restless patriarch and his splendid, tragic, ambitious clan.
In Joe O’Brien—backwoods boy, railroad magnate, brooding soul—Peter Behrens gives us a fiercely compelling man who exchanges isolation and poverty in the Canadian wilds for a share in the dazzling possibilities and consuming sorrows of the twentieth century. When Joe meets Iseult Wilkins in Venice-by-the-Sea, California, their courtship becomes the first movement in a symphony of the generations. The O’Briens is the story of a marriage and a family moving through the turbulence of history, told with epic precision and wondrous imagination.
About the Author
Peter Behrens is the author of The Law of Dreams (which received Canada’s Governor General’s Literary Award for Fiction and was published around the world to wide acclaim) and Night Driving, a collection of short stories. His stories and essays have appeared in many publications, including The Atlantic and Tin House. Honors he has received include a Wallace Stegner Fellowship from Stanford University’s Creative Writing Program.
“Behrens proves himself a first-rate storyteller. . . . As befits a saga so ambitious in design, there is an able mixture of agony and ecstasy throughout.” —The Washington Post
"Impressive . . . World War II hovers in this novel’s path like flak and rips the lives of the novel’s characters to shreds. The last hundred pages are a powerful evocation of that war’s effect . . . A major accomplishment.” —The New York Times Book Review
“A fascinating depiction of how Irish sorrow ripples through time.” —Bookpage
“Epic in its scope . . . lifetimes unfold in its pages. That the lives hold our attention so closely is a tribute to Behrens’s beautiful writing, and a reminder of just how vital, brutal, and pervasive love is.” —Huffington Post
“Brimming with character and incident, even more ambitious in scope than its prizewinning predecessor, The Law of Dreams. . . . Behrens celebrates the warmth of human attachments without pretending they can ever entirely dispel the existential chill of mortality and loneliness.” —The Daily Beast
“Gritty and nimble. . . . The O’Briens has the surprising, sometimes-random quality of real life rather than the plotted-ness of a conventional novel.” —The Columbus Dispatch
“A deftly painted portrait of a marriage.” —The Seattle Times
“Peter Behrens’s family saga The O’Briens spans the first half of the Canadian twentieth century, finding a parallel epic in an unforgettable narrative of marriage.” —Vogue.com
“This is a saga that warrants your attention. This is a story whose quiet brilliance can’t be ignored. It’s an intimate epic, if that makes sense—a portrait of an entire world through the lens of a single bloodline. All the joy and passion, all the anger and fear, all the love and loss involved in simply living and being—that’s what Peter Behrens has captured with The O’Briens.” —The Maine Edge
“Impressive in its scope and ambitious in its goals. Some of [the] descriptions are flat-out jaw-dropping . . . In giving his family a past few of them knew existed, Behrens has made The O’Briens unforgettably alive.” —The Globe and Mail
“Having read both Buddenbrooks and The O’Briens this summer, I can affirm they are definitely in the same league—great, juicy tales that will make you take a second look at annoying relatives. They are, after all, part of the big picture, otherwise known as history and destiny.” —The Gazette (Montreal)
“Illuminating . . . An epic along the lines of Middlesex in the way it follows a family through time and examines the results of their actions . . . A brooding novel, engrossing in its scope and detail, The O’Briens keeps sight of the family’s personal stories amid the larger history of much of the twentieth century.” —Booklist “Powerful . . . Moments of grace and romance are rocked by cruel words and violence in this epic, a piece of rough beauty itself.” —Publishers Weekly (starred review)