Heartscald by Alphie McCourt – Book Review And Giveaway

Today I am delighted to introduce a wonderful, new book of poetry and prose by Alphie McCourt, the youngest of the famous literary McCourt brothers.  Copies of Heartscald: A Collection of Verses, Songs and Chronicles will be won by some lucky readers.  So please read on, and check out how to enter at the end of this review.


Alphie McCourt


One of the McCourt brothers, Alphie hails from a family with serious literary chops. The youngest boy, he grew up in Limerick, Ireland. Just like his famous eldest brother Frank, Alphie immigrated to the United States.  Since his arrival in 1959 he has lived in Canada, California and New York, and now calls Manhattan home.  Although he primarily worked in the bar and restaurant business, inevitably his inherited love of the written word came to the fore.


Alphie McCourt

Image Credit

The McCourt family’s literary talents first gained notoriety through Alphie’s brothers’ books.  The late Frank McCourt penned the best selling memoirs Angela’s Ashes, ‘Tis, and Teacher Man. Malachy’s writing drew serious praise for his books A Monk Swimming and  Singing My Him Song.

With writing in his genes, it is no wonder Alphie put pen to paper to write his memoir A Long Stone’s Throw.  His vivid, emotionally-wrought, word-smithing adds his voice to the McCourt chorus of talented writers.

Today I am pleased to share with you his most recent publication.


Heartscald: A Collection Of Verses, Songs & Chronicles


Alphie McCourt’s new book is not a typical memoir, but a vivid collection of memories, poetry, and songs.  What I found most touching is the talented way the author weaves these tales, vignettes and remembrances into a lyrical, entertaining tapestry.


I connected with this book on many levels. Although I arrived in America nearly thirty years later than Alphie McCourt, my heart related to this emotional Irish-American compilation.

I know Alphie McCourt’s New York. I too observed hurried lunchers and subway riders, and longed to pen lyrical verses of praise and satire. McCourt’s observant eye and carefully chosen words take us on a journey to the very heart of this vibrant city. His rhythmic verses leave no doubt, we are walking the Big Apple’s sidewalks as Irish immigrants.

His poetry explains his binding familial ties between Ireland and America, his message strengthened by the interwoven language of Limerick and New York.

In this book McCourt gives voice to the dichotomies of our Irish American existences.  Romantic yet real, nostalgic yet gritty, celebratory yet sad, this volume is a must read for those seeking to understand the Irish American spirit.

New York is a place where on joyful, end-of-summer weekends “a soto voce saxahone plays a Rasta Danny Boy”. 

McCourt tells how New York party talk disheartened him.  He confesses:


“I was ignorant and intimidated and my timing was poor.”


I remember feeling the exact same emotions at a social gathering in the city many years ago. I despaired my naive, Irish, small talk could never ignite a deep-seated feeling of connection with savvy, self-important New Yorkers. It took me years to learn American conversational nuances to really have a chat.

Other notable entries include Croppies Come Home, a poignant exposition of the dilemma Irish immigrants faced at the birth of the Celtic Tiger. 


“The call has come over come over

Young croppies come home once again.”


McCourt’s haunting chorus echoes the hollow call of Ireland’s recent, now-defunct, economic boom.  It touched a chord with me. I pondered every thought expressed during those so-called good times in my homeland.

Alphie remembers his brother Frank in eloquent, emotionally moving prose. I smiled when he told the story of how, as a child, he crashed Frank’s bike.

“But Frank didn’t chide me, or shout or threaten.

No, he forebore and, to a child reared on fire and brimstone,

more especially on the Irish Catholic version,

such forebearance, in the face of destruction and stupidity,

was nothing short of love.”


Some entries are short, some long, but this elegant, concise book has something for all.  If you are a voracious reader, this little book of poetry and prose can be devoured in a few short hours. But trust me, it is not a book screaming to be read in one sitting. It’s perfect for those moments when a quick literary indulgence is needed to sustain a poetry lover’s soul.


Pillar International Publishing


Heartscald is published by Pillar International Publishing, an independent Irish publisher with a mission to help great writers reach their readers.

On their website they describe the books they wish to publish in quirky terms:


“Cutting edge.



On the Kildare side.







What a welcome reprieve from the typical formula-driven, cookie-cutter books so often chosen by publishers in today’s profit-driven, literary business.

I wish them every success as they strive to achieve these goals and give voice to new talented authors, who might otherwise never see their names in print.

Thank you, Pillar International Publishing, for taking on this challenge, and striving to transform the literary world, one author and one book at a time.


The Giveaway


Pillar International Publishing has generously provided two paperback copies and three electronic copies  of Heartscald: A Collection of Verses, Songs and Chronicles for five of Irish American Mom’s readers to win.

To enter our giveaway just leave a comment on this blog post by noon on Saturday, June 22nd, 2013 at noon.  You can leave any comment you wish. What you write does not affect your chances of winning.

If you need some inspiration, why not tell us if you have read any of the McCourt brothers’ books, or let us know about Irish or Irish American literature you particularly enjoy.

If you do not have an electronic reader, and only wish to be included in the drawing for the paperbacks, just let me know in your comment.

A winning comment will be chosen randomly.  Remember to leave your e-mail so that I can contact you should you win.  E-mails won’t be published or shared, just used to contact our prizewinners.

I’ll announce the winners on Saturday June 22nd, in a separate blog post.  I’ll send an e-mail to each lucky entrant so we can connect for address exchange and mailing of the paperbacks.

Best of luck to all our entrants and a big thank you to Alphie McCourt and Pillar International Publishing for sharing this wonderful book.


Slán agus beannacht leat!

(Goodbye and blessings)


Irish American Mom


  1. I read Frank McCourt’s lovely children’s Christmas book. I think it was called Angela and The Baby Jesus. It’s a perfect, heart warming tale for the holidays. I loved it, and would love to win a copy of Alphie McCourt’s new book.

  2. Cynthia Scroggins says:

    I love all things Irish and look forward to reading Mr McCourt’s book.

    • Cynthia – I’m so happy to hear you love all things Irish. All of the McCourts’ books are wonderful, so I was thrilled to have the opportunity to review this one. Thanks for entering this little giveaway.
      All the best,

  3. Marie Hall says:

    I have a bookshelf full of McCourt books. I have all of Franks and , at least, three of Malachi’s. How I wish I could have met them and shared a Guinness or two. I would love to hear a great story told by Malachi.
    I always chuckle when I
    catch a glimpse of Malachi in a movie (usually playing a priest!!).
    Anyhow, I would love to add another McCourt brother’s book to my collection.


    • Marie – Maybe if you are in New York someday, you might just bump into one of the McCourts and share a Guinness or two. I have heard they are very entertaining company. Alphie McCourt’s book really shows how much they all loved their eldest, but now departed brother, Frank. They are part of a wonderful literary family, who make Ireland and America proud.
      Best wishes,

  4. Debra McCarthy says:

    Looking forward to our 2nd trip to Ireland in 2014 & to reading Mr. McCourt’s prose.

    • Debra – It’s lovely to hear you enjoyed your first trip to Ireland so much, you have planned a return visit. It always makes me happy to know tourists enjoy their time in Ireland. This is a lovely book of poetry and prose. Just perfect for picking up to read a quick excerpt, and savor McCourt’s rhythmic verses, or insights into Irish and American life.
      Take care and thanks for supporting this little giveaway.

  5. Robert Tully says:

    I’ve read Franks work and look forward to reading Alphie’s.

    • Robert – Both brothers inherited a love of the written word and great observational skills. I really enjoyed this little book. I know I will read excerpts from it for years to come.
      Best wishes,

  6. As I read about yours and Alphie’s shared memories and trials of newly arriving in America, I couldn’t help but think of my ancestors and wonder if they too felt the exact same thing as you two. It would be fun to read this book!

    • Aimee – I often think about people who arrived in America in the 19th century, knowing they would never again see their homeland. No matter how homesick I ever felt, or how long it took me to learn and appreciate little cultural differences between Ireland and America, I have always had the luxury of being able to talk to my family by phone whenever I simply need a chat. I just can’t imagine how sad it must have been for families to be separated by the vast ocean, with only occasional letters as a means of communication.
      Thanks so much for your comment.

  7. I love all of the McCourt’s books. Thanks to Pillar International Publishing for providing these books for this great giveaway.

  8. Now that you’ve been here a while Mairead I’m sure you’ve figured out that those stuffed shirt New York socialites couldn’t hold a real conversation to save their lives. But to be fair New York isn’t alone, The John Kerry types are a dime a dozen these days.

    • Brian – I love your observation on my New York conversation challenges. It took me a little while to realize New York and America was not full of stuffed shirt socialite types, and ever since I have been chatting up a storm with anyone who will listen.
      Take care,

  9. Just a tiler . says:

    I have heard both Alphie and Frank speak on quite a few occasions , one brimming confidence and one quietly confident , but brothers at the hip .
    Malachy ( with a Y not an i ) was born for the stage and screen and oozes presence when surrounded by two or more admirers .
    Michael , the forgotten brother , tells a story like no other but shuns all limelight .
    What I remember most of Alphie are his askewed quotations such as ,
    ” Better to be right and out on the street than to be half right and warm .”
    “Say nothing and keep saying it .”
    And my favorite , ” We march at dawn unless there’s no bagels . “

    • Thanks so much for your comment and for those wonderful quotations from Alphie. Like you, my favorite is – “We march at dawn unless there’s no bagels.” Only someone like Alphie McCourt, who has lived in New York and knows what makes the city tick, could have coined a phrase like that.
      Best wishes,

  10. Maureen Nalin says:

    Mairead, my husband’s great-grandfather came over on one of the ‘coffin ships’ in the 1830s when he was in his twenties. He, the paterfamilias, worked on the Wabash and Erie Canal. One can only imagine how he, and other immigrants handled the intense heat, labor, strange surroundings and circumstances of the 1800s. I visited their graves in the remote corn fields of Indiana, and was amazed to see their birthplaces in Ireland hammered into the lichen-covered headstones. I greeted them in Irish, as the only other ‘real’ Irish person to come over since their odyssey, and could not help a little tear for their efforts and stoicism.

    I came over as bride in the 1960s, and had to adjust to the intense heat of Georgia, and the different mannerisms, and customs. Everyone was kind and gracious, but there was an exclusive attitude that was unspoken but tangible. There is a little hole in the heart that cannot be filled, I’m afraid, no matter what. I am looking forward to reading the book. Thank you for the updates. Love the blog.
    Go mBeannai Dia diobh go leir!
    Maureen from Baile Ata Cliath (Dublin).

    • Maureen – Thanks so much for checking out my blog and for your kind words. When I first came to America I worked upstate New York. The winter there was bitterly cold compared to Ireland, but I can only imagine how hot you found Georgia when you first arrived in the 1960′s. In our Dublin childhoods we never experienced anything like the humid, hot air of a Georgia summer. The differences in mannerisms and customs can be very simple and subtle at times, but very real all the same. It just took time to learn and grow accustomed to our new homes.
      Thanks also for sharing the story of your husband’s family and their work on the Wabash and Erie canals. It is nice to hear their birthplaces in Ireland were recorded on their headstones. Many Irish American families have no idea from where their Irish families originated. This information provides such an important link for those seeking to reconnect with their ancestral homes in Ireland. So glad you said a little prayer for them in Irish.
      Slán agus beannacht,

  11. Sounds wonderful, Mairead. I haven’t read any of the McCourt brothers books yet, though Angela’s Ashes has been on my to-read list for awhile. Why is that list so long??!! :) Thanks for the giveaway!

    • Cheryl – I understand how your to-read list keeps growing and growing. I keep adding to my list but don’t seem to get to finish any of the books that are long awaiting my attention. I seem to have far less time in the summer, since my kids are home from school. I am running all over the place taking them to activities and camps, going on picnics and just plain enjoying their time off.
      Best wishes,

  12. Dear Mairead: Many thanks for your warm and insightful review. You are, obviously, simpatico. You get it. That is really gratifying. I have been saddled with the word poetry because brother Frank told Dominic Taylor at the Limerick Writers Centre in Limerick that i was the poet in the family. By the time it came to my attention Frank was dead. Otherwise i would have sued him for defamation of character. People fear famine, floods, disease, torture-even death itself- but they fear nothing more than poetry. Me too. And so my stuff is mostly verse. Be not afraid. And, in my tireless quest for self promotion I wanted to let you know that I have a half dozen pieces on iTunes-pieces i recorded with Hachette Audio. There are two Christmas pieces, a nice Saint Patrick’s Day piece and a couple of excerpts from a Long Stone’s Throw.
    Your review meant a great deal to.me. You have my email address now so feel free if I can reciprocate in some way. Again, a thousand thanks and the best of luck Alphie McCourt

    • Dear Alphie – Thank you so much for stopping by my site and for your kind words. Wishing you every success with this wonderful book of poetry and memories. I truly believe you should accept the title of poet, bestowed upon you by your brother, Frank. He definitely knew what he was talking about, and based on the wonderful, lyrical poems in this collection, you deserve that title.
      I dabble with words, and have written some free verse pieces. Like you, I hesitate to call my work poetry, because it is very non-conforming and adheres to no meter, pattern, rhyme, nor reason for that matter. However, I enjoy writing my little verses, so I think that is what really counts. So as long as you enjoy writing your verses, please keep writing them. Readers, like me, thoroughly enjoy your poetic flare, your word choices, and your insights into the Irish American spirit.
      Thanks also for sharing the information about the availability of your work on iTunes.
      Best wishes, and thank you for a beautiful piece of Irish American literature. I look forward to your next publication.

  13. Mary Sullivan says:

    I would love to read the paperback version. Thank you.

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