“In the Shadow of the Cedar - A Memoir” by Eileen McCartin Love tells the story of a girl's growing up within the gravitational pull of her family's ancestral home on Cedar Drive. For years the author was captivated by her mother’s often haunting tales of the individuals who lived in that beloved place: the trio of Irish immigrant girls who occupied the attic dormitory; the sweet young mother who tragically died in childbirth in an upstairs room; the crippled grandmother who stepped in to rear the six motherless children. There was also the folklore that surrounded the neighborhood, at the center of which was the “deadly” local lake rumored to have no bottom! The sorrowful tales were lived out, side by side with episodes of laughter and merriment too, as the six mischievous children played jokes on one another, taunted their patient grandma, and ran roughshod over the neighborhood, past turn-of-the-century houses belonging to stars of the entertainment, literary, and business worlds.
A distance away from Cedar Drive the author spends most of her girlhood exploring the far reaches of her suburban backyard and reveling in her mother’s stories of long ago, looking for points of intersection between her life in the 1960s and her mother’s in the 1920s. The result is a book that is equal parts funny and poignant, and speaks to universal truths about self and family. Told in a series of lively vignettes, it is filled with wonderfully descriptive stories, sprinkled with period references spanning the 1920s through the 1990s, all played out in front of the rich tapestry of an Irish Catholic backdrop.
At its heart, this is a story of two lives intertwined, those of a mother and daughter. The author recounts life under the canopy of her mother’s lively memories from another time and place. Eventually, restless with wonderment about her mother’s past, the writer has a soul-altering encounter with the house on Cedar Drive, and comes away with a renewed understanding about the things that really matter.