Kate McCafferty lives in the Patch, a small coal mining community. Most of the families of the Patch are Irish. For their entire, and sometimes tragically short, lives the men and boys work hard in the coal mines to make a living. Dangerous work conditions and unfair mine owners add to the difficulty of life in the Patch. Many of the Irish men are angry over their life and the racism shown against Irish.
With the start of the Civil War a new threat looms on the horizon. Poor Irish men are being drafted into the war effort because they don’t have the money to pay for an exemption. No concern is shown for their wives and children, who will have to suffer the loss of a spouse or father.
The Irish men of the Patch form a secret society called the Molly Maguires. Its goal is to fight the draft and protect its members from the draft. Kate’s friend Con becomes deeply involved in the effort, but Kate fears for his safety because the Molly Maguires seem to be headed toward disaster. Many of them have very angry and violent attitudes.
Then Kate learns of their ultimate plan. The Molly Maguires plan to blow up the train tracks and derail the draft train. Then the men of the Patch won’t be taken away in the draft.
Kate is afraid that this desperate plan will end with many Irish men, including her friend Con imprisoned. So Kate comes up with her own plan. By disguising herself and posing as a draft resister who was blacklisted by the mine owners, Kate infiltrates the Molly Maguires and attempts to bring about a peaceful solution to the problem.
Overall I would say that “Call Me Kate” is a decent book. Kate is an imaginative and strong heroine, and her personality really comes into action in the last few chapters of the book. However, the story takes a while to get to its climax, and for most of the first three quarters of the book Kate plays a minimal role, as she is far away from the theatre of action.
Despite the fact that this part of the book seems to drag on a little, it is full of strange gaps and breaks that ruin the flow of the plot. Many of the chapters have weeks or months of time between them, and they start with a brief summary of what happened in the interim time between. The flow of the book feels a little sacrificed as if portions of the story were edited out at the last minute.
Even if there are breaks in the plot, there are definitely no shortcomings in the excellent details that Molly Roe uses to enliven the historical scenes. I feel that the portrayal of Civil War era life is very authentic, and at the same time it subtly teaches much about how people worked, played, and thought in that time period.
“Call Me Kate” is a decent historical novel. I feel that it is a good education book, even though it is not as exciting or as polished as some other historical fiction I’ve read.
Inkweaver Book Rating: