The Cottage at Bantry Bay, Francie on the Run, and Pegeen are charming, wholesome, fun-filled tales of Catholic family life in 1940s Ireland that are humorous and heartwarming. In these stories, the children are carefree, happy-go-lucky children who live innocent lives. They enjoy their brothers and sisters, they love their mother and father, they revel in the fun of life, and they radiate the pure hearts of children who are blessed with good parents who cherish their children. These books are ideal to read aloud to children eight or nine years old and most appropriate as good literature for children in junior high school or older.
In a Catholic family, a husband and wife are to be sources of grace to one another and to their children. The children are to be sources of grace to one another and to their parents. And the Catholic family is to be a source of grace to other families. This pattern is constant and recurring throughout these three books. For example, when Mr. O’Sullivan trips in a rabbit hole and finds himself unable to travel the long distance to sell his donkey, his two older children, Michael (11) and Brigid (9), volunteer to do their father’s errand:
Mother sat frowning; presently she looked up and said: “It may be a good plan, Father, to let both of them go. They’re fine healthy children, God bless their hearts, and if one of them is in trouble the other can let us know. It’s safer I think, and we’re in sore need of the money.”
In this episode the children provide for their parents, brother and sister befriend each other, father is thinking of the welfare of his child, and mother offers her practical wisdom for the good of the family—all family members acting as sources of grace to one another.
In another moving episode from The Cottage at Bantry Bay, Michael and Bridy receive a good bit of money as a reward. Their immediate instinct is to offer the money for their brother Francie’s operation:
“Mother,” said Michael gravely, getting up and handing her the envelope. “This is too much altogether for me and Bridy to spend. Sure, many’s the time we were longing to help you, so we could have Francie’s foot mended—isn’t it so, Bridy— and we couldn’t. It’s glad we are to be able now.”
Touched by the purity of her children’s hearts, Mrs. O’Sullivan “had tears in her eyes and she pressed both her eldest born to her heart.”
In Francie on the Run, Francie tires of his long convalescence in the hospital after his successful surgery, misses his family and twin brother Liam, and one day escapes from the hospital and begins his long, adventuresome journey homeward. Francie meets Pegeen, a girl with a lively spirit and active imagination who lives alone with an aged grandmother. A warm friendship develops between these two children after Francie and Pegeen lose their way in the mist and are found by Father Kelly. The lost boy is temporarily lodged with Pegeen and her grandmother until the priest finds transportation for Francie to return home.
In Pegeen, Francie’s friend becomes an orphan after her grandmother dies. Pegeen’s only living relative, an uncle in America, does not appear enthusiastic about adopting his niece. When Pegeen writes to Francie about her problem, Francie responds by inviting her to visit his family: “[Mother] says she wants you to come and stay with us….” In the course of her visit, Pegeen experiences the sisterly affection of Brigid who shares her favorite doll, the loyal friendship of Francie and Liam who cry at the thought of Pegeen leaving their family to go to America, the maternal tenderness of Mrs. O’Sullivan who says “yes” to Pegeen as another child in the family, and the protection and security of a strong father like Mr. O’Sullivan. Thus the O’Sullivan family becomes a source of grace not only for parents and children but also for other families and for society at large.