Irish Tweed: A Nuala Anne McGrail Novel

Irish Tweed: A Nuala Anne McGrail Novel

by Andrew M. Greeley

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Countless readers have been delighted by Father Andrew M. Greeley's bestselling tales of Nuala Anne McGrail, a fey, Irish-speaking woman blessed with the gift of second sight, and her husband and accomplice, Dermot Michael Coyne.

In Irish Tweed, Nuala Anne and her daughter have taken up karate to fight off schoolyard bullies who are harassing the family, while their incredibly shy nanny, Julie, is courted by a new fellow. Dermot pores over a memoir of a famine refugee whose family died of a mysterious fever, looking for clues into the illness' real cause.

Father Greeley's many fans look forward to each installment, and Irish Tweed is another captivating tale in a series by one of America's best loved storytellers.

At the Publisher's request, this title is being sold without Digital Rights Management Software (DRM) applied.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781429992039
Publisher: Tom Doherty Associates
Publication date: 02/17/2009
Series: Nuala Anne McGrail Novels , #12
Sold by: Macmillan
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 256
Sales rank: 412,971
File size: 694 KB

About the Author

Priest, sociologist, author, and journalist, Father Andrew M. Greeley (1928-2013) was the author of over 50 bestselling novels and more than 100 works of nonfiction. His novels include the Bishop Blackie Ryan series, including The Archbishop in Andalusia; the Nuala Anne McGrail series, including Irish Tweed; the O’Malley Family Saga, including A Midwinter’s Tale; and standalones such as Home for Christmas and The Cardinal Sins.

A leading spokesperson for generations of Catholics, Father Greeley unflinchingly urged his beloved Church to become more responsive to believers’ evolving concerns. He chronicled his service to the Church in two autobiographies, Confessions of a Parish Priest and Furthermore!

Priest, sociologist, author and journalist, Father Andrew M. Greeley built an international assemblage of devout fans over a career spanning five decades. His books include the Bishop Blackie Ryan novels, including The Archbishop in Andalusia, the Nuala Anne McGrail novels, including Irish Tweed, and The Cardinal Virtues. He was the author of over 50 best-selling novels and more than 100 works of non-fiction, and his writing has been translated into 12 languages.

Father Greeley was a Professor of Sociology at the University of Arizona and a Research Associate with the National Opinion Research Center (NORC) at the University of Chicago. In addition to scholarly studies and popular fiction, for many years he penned a weekly column appearing in the Chicago Sun-Times and other newspapers. He was also a frequent contributor to The New York Times, the National Catholic Reporter, America and Commonweal, and was interviewed regularly on national radio and television. He authored hundreds of articles on sociological topics, ranging from school desegregation to elder sex to politics and the environment.

Throughout his priesthood, Father Greeley unflinchingly urged his beloved Church to become more responsive to evolving concerns of Catholics everywhere. His clear writing style, consistent themes and celebrity stature made him a leading spokesperson for generations of Catholics. He chronicled his service to the Church in two autobiographies, Confessions of a Parish Priest and Furthermore!

In 1986, Father Greeley established a $1 million Catholic Inner-City School Fund, providing scholarships and financial support to schools in the Chicago Archdiocese with a minority student body of more than 50 percent. In 1984, he contributed a $1 million endowment to establish a chair in Roman Catholic Studies at the University of Chicago. He also funded an annual lecture series, “The Church in Society,” at St. Mary of the Lake Seminary, Mundelein, Illinois, from which he received his S.T.L. in 1954.

Father Greeley received many honors and awards, including honorary degrees from the National University of Ireland at Galway, the University of Arizona and Bard College. A Chicago native, he earned his M.A. in 1961 and his Ph.D. in 1962 from the University of Chicago.

Father Greeley was a penetrating student of popular culture, deeply engaged with the world around him, and a lifelong Chicago sports fan, cheering for the Bulls, Bears and the Cubs. Born in 1928, he died in May 2013 at the age of 85.

Read an Excerpt

Irish Tweed

A Nuala Anne McGrail Novel

By Andrew M. Greeley

Tom Doherty Associates

Copyright © 2009 Andrew M. Greeley Enterprises, Ltd.
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-4299-9203-9


MY BEAUTIFUL wife, Nuala Anne, is doing martial arts these days. Like everything she does, she's an enthusiast about her program of "Self-Defense for Women." One night every week, she dons her floppy white clothes, tightens her black belt, and goes over to the storefront on Clark Street to learn from "the Revered Teacher" how to fend off and incapacitate would-be assailants. Sometimes she brings along one of our snow-white wolfhounds, which, she insists, are very popular with the group.

"'Tis not that I'm afraid of you, Dermot love," she says anxiously as we wait in the parlor of our home on Southport Avenue for the advent of Julie's date. "It's not that kind of attack that I want to resist."

"We'll see," I say, not wanting to give up a talking point in our culture of banter.

In some of our recent adventures me wife has battered, routed, and incapacitated troublesome males with considerable éclat. The only resistance I encounter is symbolic, part of the games we play in bed — or anywhere else when there is opportunity. However, I rarely challenge her when she has a new idea. My challenge would make her feel guilty, but it wouldn't stop her. If me wife says she feels the need to learn taekwondo, I go along. Her instincts, I have learned in thirteen years of marriage, are usually dead on.

Fiona, our senior wolfhound, ambled in the room and sat at me wife's feet.

"Doesn't this one want to get a look at Julie's date," she said as she patted the compliant canine's massive head. "Just like that one that just went upstairs." "That one," was our Mary Anne (in the past also known as Nellie or Nelliecoyne), an auburn-haired beauty on the cusp of adulthood. Nuala Anne's conceit was that she had no control whatever over our eldest, and she was now my responsibility. This was pure fiction. The two of them had bonded long ago and, both being part witch, they communicated silently with one another. Against me, as I claimed. Nuala bonded with every woman that came into our sprawling antebellum house. That was the only way she could properly take care of them. Julie alone of our nannies resisted the link — mostly out of shyness, I thought. Instead she bonded with Mary Anne, which perhaps gave my wife an indirect link, not one which assuaged her Connemara sense of maternal responsibility.

"I'm sure her ma expects me to take care of her and herself all them thousands of miles away from Dublin at Loyola University, the poor little thing."

You must understand that the key words which began with th-emerged sounding like "dem," "dousands," and "ding" — the Irish language lacks a sound to correspond with our th. I had long since given up my battle to transform her dialect from Galwegan to Mercan. Yet when our oldest began to speak "the way they do back home," me wife would comment, "Won't dem kids at St. Ignatius College Prep laugh at you for being uncivilized."

"The ones from da Soudside won't even notice."

"Dermot Michael Coyne! You must do something about your daughter."

"Isn't it too late now, and yourself having spoiled her rotten?"

Thus we bantered with one another — outside our bedroom anyway.

Me wife is a beautiful woman, as I have said. In fact, she is many beautiful women, and an actress at that she was at TCD (Trinity College Dublin), as well as a singer. She slips from one persona into another with practiced ease — the shy and charming young singer from Carraoe in Connemara, the disciplined athlete who ran the marathon and played hoops with her daughter over in the school yard of St. Joe's, the stiff, shrewd investment broker at Arthur Andersen (who got out long before the bailiff arrived), the grand duchess sashaying down Michigan Avenue in the Easter Parade, oblivious to the hungry stares of men and the resentful expressions of women, the modest virgin who might have become a nun and who could outpray most of the women in the world (especially when our tiny neonate was dying), the ingenious slut with whom I slept.

I loved them all.

She was five feet nine inches tall, and had pale blue eyes which suggested a rare sunny day on Galway Bay, long thick black hair, and buttermilk-smooth skin. Her voice evoked, for me anyway, the sound of church bells heard from a distance over the bogs. I fell in love with her the first night I encountered her with a world economics textbook in O'Neil's Pub on the College Green (which hasn't been green for centuries) and she repudiated my efforts to "chat her up" with a dismissive, "Focking rich Yank." According to her, she knew then and there, as I gawked at her breasts while she was singing about Molly Malone — and weeping at poor Molly's fate — that she would have to sleep with me sometime.

She'd had a hard time at first in Yank Land — homesick, afraid of me and my family (all of whom adored her), hunted down by the feds as an illegal (which she wasn't), terrified at the prospect of becoming a concert singer. Marriage did not make life any easier — four pregnancies, one of them causing a sustained trauma of postpartum depression and another a premature little girl child, Socra Marie, who was now our tiny terrorist. And she had to live in the same house with me, the four kids, the cook, the nannies, and the hounds. I was the most difficult of them all.

"Me poor Dermot Michael, he doesn't do much of anything useful. He started his life as a gambler (read 'commodity trader'), then he retired and lived off his winnings and he just sits around daydreaming and writing poetry and stories."

"And I didn't say that you devour me with your hungry eyes all day long, did I?"

"You're the one who is a poet, woman of the house. And you didn't say either that I'm your spear-carrier, your Doctor Watson, your Captain Hastings, your Monsieur Flambeau."

"Actually you're my Baker Street Irregular."

You see, my Nuala Anne solves puzzles. According to Commander Culhane of the Sixth Precinct Detectives and Superintendent Michael Casey of Reliable Security, she is the best "natural" detective they have ever met, save perhaps for her good friend Blackie Ryan, sometime Rector of the Cathedral and now, "by the inattention of the Holy Spirit and ineptitude of the Holy See, Cardinal Archbishop of Chicago."

The doorbell rang.

"'Tis himself," my wife said.

That could have been a guess, a statement of probability, or a certainty. You see, my wife is fey. She even sees halos around people's heads (mine is silver and blue, if you're interested), a trait she shares with the good Mary Anne.

"Answer the door, Dermot Michael, and remember his name is not Finnbar Michael but Finnbar Me-hall, just like yours is Dir-mud."

"With the emphasis on mud."

I struggled to my feet and glanced at her quickly. Her body was turned at such an angle that her torso outlined itself against the floppy gown. My thoughts of lust or love, hard to say which or what combination of both was at work, that had teased my imagination all day, took over. Ah, it would be a fun night.

She knew of course about my fantasies almost before I did — and sometimes, maybe always, stirred them up. I learned how to read the glint in her eyes which was a signal that she wouldn't half mind. There was, I told myself, the required glint. It didn't follow that there would not be a show of resistance, hesitation, insistence that we both had a hard day tomorrow and should have a good night's sleep. This was all, I had come to realize, nothing more than symbolic behavior which meant, "yes, why not?" She would beg off on occasion, with a signal in her eyes.

One night after a particularly delightful romp, she said, "Isn't it a good thing now, Dermot Michael, that we enjoy this so much. Otherwise it would be difficult to live together, and meself an accountant and yourself a poet."

"'Tis true," I said with the required sigh.

"And yourself telling me all along that I'm a beautiful woman and meself not believing it at all, at all."

"That's why God created us humans to be lovers."

"'Tis true," she said.

So, of course, when I had looked out the window there was a small decrepit Asian-looking car, probably "previously owned" and maybe "previously owned" twice. A young man emerged, barely of medium height, six inches shorter than me and an inch or two shorter than Nuala. More than big enough for the diminutive Julie. He glanced up at the house, noted the stairway to the second floor, shrugged his shoulders and began, somewhat gingerly like all first-time guests, to ascend the stairs. He was wearing a dark suit (vaguely navy blue, perhaps) purchased off a rack somewhere. He was also wearing an Irish tweed hat, which he removed and stuffed into his jacket pocket halfway up the stairs. His hair was blond with bushy curls and his face was already tainted red — and not from climbing the stairs. Not handsome, not a man of power, but surely cute and perhaps even adorable.

He knocked on the door. I opened it promptly.

His smile was easy and charming.

"Good evening Mr. McGrail, Finnbar Burke. With your permission I'd like to take Julie Crean to the motion pictures tonight."

Very formal but still with a grin that forced me to grin.

I shook hands with him.

"I'm Dermot, Finnbar. Mr. McGrail is my father-in-law over across in Connemara. The woman of the house is the gorgeous woman behind me, my wife Nuala Anne McGrail."

"Dressed for combat, I see."

He was inundated by a stream of Irish, Galway dialect I expected.

He responded with his own stream.

Both of them showing off.

"Like all good Cork men," Nuala Anne observed, "you still have that patada in your mouth."

"And like all Connemara mystics you talk in plainchant."

More laughter. The young man was not devoid of wit.

"And here's your lovely date ... Trailing after her are three witches who ought not to be here — Fiona, who is Julie's canine guardian, and two of my children, Mary Anne and Socra Marie. Shake hands with Mr. Burke, girls."

"Mary Anne" was pronounced "MA-ree-ahn."

The white hound claimed precedence and offered her paw respectfully. Finnbar Burke bent down, took the paw, and said some words in Irish. The huge dog stood up on her hind legs and kissed him. He hugged her and continued praising her in Irish.

"Fiona," Julie said, blushing furiously, "you'll be the ruination of us all!"

"And my daughters, Mary Anne and Socra Marie, who are now going to shake hands with you and return to their rooms to finish their homework."

They both shook hands with Julie's date and greeted him in Irish. Mary Anne wore her martial arts garments.

"Och, isn't it two fearsome women altogether? And a gorgeous wolfhound? Sure, Mr. Coyne, wouldn't you be havin' no security problems at all, at all?"

"Dermot! Isn't Mr. Coyne my uncle, the lawyer?"

"Galway lasses, I note," he said. "Good night, girls, study hard."

"Yes, Mr. Burke."

Julie, dressed at last in something more than jeans and sweatshirt, was gorgeous in a knit beige dress which clung nicely to her delightful body. She radiated joy, confidence, pleasure. She had a fella, and a nice fella, with a great smile and a quick wit. His admiration enveloped her. She lowered her eyes, embarrassed but pleased. It was perhaps the first time in her life that she had experienced male desire, respectful desire indeed, but still desire.

"We'll just go over to the Century to see the filum there about Cork during the Troubles and then stop for a pint at the Irish pub down the street."

The Wind in the Barley Fields was not, I thought, the ideal "filum" for a first date.

"We won't stay out too late," Julie assured us.

"Don't come home too early either," Nuala added.

She pecked at my cheek and then Nuala's, the first for both of us. Finnbar Burke took her hand and led her down the steps. He watched her on every step, his eyes drinking her in, like a man perishing with the thirst.

When I closed the door, Fiona curled up in front of it. She would stand guard till her charge returned.

"Upstairs, girls," the woman of the house repeated her orders ... "No, not you, Fiona. You can wait till she comes home."

The hound raised her huge head as if to protest and then curled up in a complacent knot and promptly went to sleep.

"I think he's adorable," Mary Anne observed as she obeyed with no undue haste.

On the couch next to me, an antique from the Civil War sub-basement and appropriately rehabbed, me spouse was weeping softly. I put my arm around her.

"They're both so young." She sighed her loudest West of Ireland sigh, which her friend Cardinal Blackie described as sounding like the beginning of a heavy asthma attack.

"Reminds you of O'Neil's Pub a long time ago, does it now?"

"'Tis true."

"In fact, she is three years older than you were that evening, and he's probably about the same age as I was."

"And he looks at her with the same glow in his eyes that you looked at me."

"And she blushes in response even as you did."

We both sighed again.

"We didn't know what we were doing, did we, Dermot Michael?"

"Woman, we did not!"

"Won't you have to take him out to Butterfield and see how good he is?"

"He plays golf?"

"Isn't that tweed cap he shoved in his pocket the symbol of the Old Head Links in Kinsale? Don't they say the wind there comes either from the North Pole or from Hell?"

"You'll have to come along and play with us."

"Only when you report how good he is."

Me spouse is a grand golfer altogether. Won the women's tournament at Portumna when she was seventeen. She claims she's too busy to play anymore, but in truth she's afraid that I'll beat her, which I do on very rare occasions. She hits her drives as long as I hit mine, which is not appropriate behavior for a wife, is it now?

"Well," she sighed again. "Don't we have one more responsibility and ourselves not having enough responsibilities as it is."

"What responsibility?"

"We have to take care of Julie and her fella. They don't have anyone else to take care of them."

"Two more children in our family?"

"If God didn't want us to take care of them, why would he have sent them here?"

"Give over, Nuala Anne. No one took care of us."

"Except our parents who taught us marital love by example and your family which took care of me as soon as I showed up. And themselves wondering if I wouldn't make something out of you."

"Which you didn't like at all, at all, if I remember right."

"They wanted me to remake you and meself liking you the way you were. And now they think I did remake you and themselves being wrong altogether. But they were there to help and still are. Your pa and ma take care of the kids, and His Riverance digs up all those manuscripts, and Cyndi keeps the feds off our backs."

My brother the priest is always accorded such respect. The Cardinal, one would expect, would deserve much more. However, he was simply Blackie.

"'Tis true," I admitted. "Don't Julie and Finnbar have families of their own?"

"Dermot they do not, and yourself knowing that. They came here to escape their families. God wants us to be their families while they're keeping company and courting."

I never quite understood the distinction.

"Orphans of the storm who rolled up on our beach?"

"You have the right of it now. God wants us to help them."

Well, that settled that.

"You have the right of it, woman of the house."

She sniffed as though that were self-evident.

"What do we know about them?"

"She doesn't confide in me, but your daughter keeps me informed.

"That one?"

"She tells me that she went to CUD, City University of Dublin, and himself to CUC, City University Cork — the bottom of the ladder, so to speak — and themselves both very clever, herself in a doctoral program at DePaul and her man down at your business school below on Illinois Street and doing very well indeed, if you please."

It wasn't my business school. It belonged to the University of Chicago. Or simply The University.

My wife was proud of her knowledge of the street maps of Chicago. If Finnbar Burke was doing well there, he was also a bright young man and probably a dangerous golfer.

My tranquility disappeared before my very eyes.

"And where does he work?"

"On Washington Street down below and isn't it for some Irish company that's buying a lot of American property and that cheap these days."

"Sounds un-American to me."

"We bought property in Ireland when it was cheap, why shouldn't they buy it in America when it's cheap?"

We both sighed again. This time I was faking it.


Excerpted from Irish Tweed by Andrew M. Greeley. Copyright © 2009 Andrew M. Greeley Enterprises, Ltd.. Excerpted by permission of Tom Doherty Associates.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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