All the Walls of Belfast is a unique historical fiction debut from Sarah Carlson set in Ireland post-Troubles.
Fiona and Danny were born in the same hospital. Fiona’s mom fled with her to the United States when she was two, but, fourteen years after the Troubles ended, a forty-foot-tall peace wall still separates her dad’s Catholic neighborhood from Danny’s Protestant neighborhood.
After chance brings Fiona and Danny together, their love of the band Fading Stars, big dreams, and desire to run away from their families unites them. Danny and Fiona must help one another overcome the burden of their parents’ pasts. But one ugly truth might shatter what they have…
(Disclaimer: I received this book from the author. This has not impacted my review which is unbiased and honest.)
All the Walls of Belfast was one of those books that kept me thinking. Not only was it set in a historical fiction setting I wasn’t used to, but it asks important questions about cycles of violence, making peace with the past, and changing who we want to be. Their relationship is one born of secrets, pasts with scars, and a glimmer of hope for the future. Having never been to Ireland, Carlson is able to write a detailed and descriptive setting. Part of what makes All the Walls of Belfast so compelling is the atmosphere!
My second favorite part of All the Walls of Belfast were the themes Carlson explores. There is so much to unpack within this book, but we are asked whether we can atone for our past mistakes. Does our past define our future? How can we escape the mistakes of our youth and change? Carlson adds family secrets and this historical fiction background to complicate our questions. What happens when we meet someone who was hurt by our past?
Family, and what you would do for them, is a huge part of All the Walls of Belfast. There’s the ghost of her mother standing between her and her family in Ireland. Not only are we wondering exactly why her mother fled, but there are all these memories between them. All the Walls of Belfast is a dual POV story and we are able to see how different, and similar, family is for both Fiona and Danny. Throughout All the Walls of Belfast I wasn’t too invested in the romance story line, because Fiona and Danny as individuals were so fascinating to me.