2003-04-05 / Community

‘Caroline Rose’ A First Novel To Remember

By Liz Guarino
'Caroline Rose' A First Novel To Remember A Review By Liz Guarino

'Caroline Rose' A First Novel To Remember
Review By Liz Guarino

It is said that the Irish can do two things: sing a song and tell a tale.Mary (nee Treacy) Triola can do both, and more. When she raises her rich soprano voice in the Gaelic tongue of her ancestral homeland in "Eamon an Chnoic", she glides her fingertips over her harp strings; the result is haunting and lovely. The audience is captivated, transfixed. Tears begin to cascade down some listeners' cheeks. Triola's performances are stunning, but she is totally unhampered by any conceits. A talented performer, the New York State born musician plays harp and the Uillean Pipes as well as the Irish fife and whistles. As a performer of traditional Celtic music with the group Moch Pryderi, she is electrifying in English, Welsh and Gaelic. To any audience member, it would seem that Triola must put all her God-given talents into making her music.

When Triola's first novel - Caroline Rose - was published earlier this year, fans learned of yet another of her talents-that of writing a thoroughly good mystery. Possessing an engrossing plot, fascinating and complex characters and an unflinching look into the world of the homeless, Caroline Rose is a gem of a novel. Caroline Rose has been nominated in the fiction category for the 6th Annual Library of Virginia Literary Awards.

Events in the book are kicked into motion when a chance meeting between graduate student Kate O'Brien and homeless Caroline Rose grows into an unusual friendship. As the friendship develops and Caroline's past is revealed in surprising ways, the women's lives become inexorably intertwined with roots that hide in the past.

From the first sentence of the novel to the last line of the epilogue, the reader is engrossed. With the opening words, Kate tells the reader: "My father was murdered." American-born Kate has 100% Irish ancestry, a college degree, two roommates and lots of compassion. An aspiring writer, she is a waitress who needs her day job. Kate tells the story as though she is talking directly to the reader.  The first chapters deal with her childhood, including a not-to-be-missed incident in the funeral home where her father is waked.

The setting for the novel is Fredericksburg, Virginia and it takes place in the present time. The novel maintains its mystery throughout; it was not possible to guess what would happen next. Triola has woven a complicated tapestry of a plot, dropping enough hints here and suggestions there to lead the reader one way then create a plot twist in the opposite direction. Some plot twists can be shocking; on encountering one such event, one reader found herself muttering "I can't believe that happened." The same event left another reader open-mouthed.

The novel shows the growth of Kate O'Brien to maturity understanding;
initially she has difficulty facing certain realities. By the end of the
novel, she has learned to handle difficulty well. The novel shows the role of
kindness in our world, what it can do and what it cannot accomplish.

The novel is not a book to be tossed off in one sitting, nor is it a collection of throw-away prose. It is designed to be so much more. Triola's deftly described scenes are beautifully provocative and trigger vivid mental images to underlie each piece of the action. She has created a sense of being there. Her rich phraseology accents this to-be-savored novel and makes the reader feel almost sorry to have turned the last page.

Using Caroline and other homeless people to address the topic of homelessness helps the reader to look into a national topic about which there is a lot of curiosity. A new author rarely dives into the murky waters of a societal problem like homelessness, but the book dares to explore reasons for and solutions to this problem. Using the lives, words and experiences of the homeless characters in the book, shows a powerless population.

When Kate first meets Caroline, she notes that people look through, rather than at, the homeless. "Everyone ignored her," she said. "Maybe they thought her world would only be real if they met her gaze." Kate calls the problem of homelessness "modern leprosy," but she is not immune to spontaneous reactions herself. When she gets close to Caroline, she says: "I smiled at my elderly guest, trying not to wrinkle my nose at the smell." Kate shows the fullness of the depth with which she was created when she observes: "The brassy little girl I had been had somehow grown up to be an insecure woman."

Caroline is known through Kate's observations, conclusions and Caroline's answers to Kate's questions. When Kate first sees Caroline She observes: "Unlike other homeless I had seen panhandling at intersections, she did not wear an expression of shame." As the women come to know each other better, Kate sees a difference in the Caroline she is familiar with and the woman from the past: "Again I was hitting the brick wall between her past and her present lifestyles."

One of the most humorous, poignant and heartfelt exchanges between the women comes when Kate tries to lift some of the veiling from the life of the homeless. As she asks questions of Caroline and is given answers, the shape of the homeless woman's world reveals itself. The reader knows the relationship between the women is at its apex when Kate says to Caroline: "You don't owe me anything. I feel like you're a member of the family."

The conclusion of the novel is as surprising as revelations sprinkled
throughout it. Triola has written a good mystery-containing secrets, love, kindness, and murder. Suffice it to say: It was totally enjoyable - a really great read!

Although Triola and her family live in the state of Virginia, she has roots in New York. She is a granddaughter of the late James Treacy who headed the New York City Bureau of Buildings in the 1940's. She is also a cousin

to the family of Dr. Aloysius T. Kelly, an obstetrician who delivered many area residents, and whose practice was once located in Far Rockaway.

Triola maintains a website: http://marytriola.com  Her book is available for order through amazon.com and Barnes & Noble at bn.com.

A portion of the proceeds from the sale of each copy of Caroline Rose will go to Casey's Kids. A national charity, Casey's Kids helps the families of critically ill children.ings in the 1940's. She is also a cousin to the family of Dr. Aloysius T. Kelly, an obstetrician who delivered many area residents, and whose practice was once located in Far Rockaway.

Triola maintains a website: http://marytriola.com  Her book is available for order through amazon.com and Barnes & Noble at bn.com.

A portion of the proceeds from the sale of each copy of Caroline Rose will go to Casey's Kids. A national charity, Casey's Kids helps the families of critically ill children.


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