top of page

Hungry Trails - trailer

Video by White Rabbit Arts at The Historical Fiction Company



- In "Hungry Trails", author Maire Malone masterfully weaves an evocative tale of an Irish family’s desperate journey to escape the devastating effects of famine and disease. As they navigate the tumultuous waters of a world turned upside down, the Foley family is tested, their bonds of kinship and friendship strained to their limits. What awaits them across the ocean in the New World, however, remains uncertain—will the foreign shores offer them refuge, or will they merely exchange one set of hardships for another?

Narrated through the eyes of Julie Foley, the family’s spirited and inquisitive daughter, "Hungry Trails" presents a poignant coming-of-age story that explores themes of self-discovery, resilience, and familial sacrifice. Despite the relentless adversity that befalls her loved ones, Julie remains steadfast in her pursuit of knowledge and her quest to forge her own path in life. Her unwavering dedication to her family and her unyielding optimism drives the narrative forward as readers eagerly anticipate whether Julie will ultimately find the fulfillment she seeks.

Set against the sweeping backdrop of historical events, "Hungry Trails" is a must-read for those who appreciate intricately crafted stories that transport the reader to another time and place. Malone’s exquisite prose and rich descriptions paint vivid images of the characters and their surroundings, immersing readers in the trials and tribulations of the Foley family. Accessible and engaging, "Hungry Trails" is a highly recommended read for discerning readers of all ages who are seeking an unforgettable literary journey.

Literary Titan review

"Hungry Trails" is a Five-Star Literary Titan Award Winner











- "Hungry Trails" receives five stars and the “Highly Recommended” award of excellence from The Historical Fiction Company"   *****

Please click on the pdf icon to read the full review.





- "In Máire Malone’s second book, her sympathetic writing conveys with stark clarity the privations suffered by many Irish families in the 1840s, firstly at the hands of avaricious landlords who raised rents for poor quality housing to unsustainable levels and drove families into debt; many were evicted from their homes, which were then usually destroyed, so poor was their construction. The circumstances of evicted families was made much worse by the potato blight epidemics that destroyed their subsistence potato crops in the 1840s. The choice left to many people was then the workhouse or emigration to the New World. Although the latter held promise, it was difficult to raise the money for the fare to get there and also difficult to reach the embarkation port, which often involved a long walk carrying all of their meagre belongings. As if that were not enough, the conditions on the boats that crossed the Atlantic were appalling. Máire Malone’s descriptions of life for the Foley family is so clear that the reader is drawn right into the events described and lives alongside the emigrating family. There is much tragedy in the fictional story of the Foley family, the background to which has been diligently researched, but also moments of happiness. The book is so soundly based that it can be taken as an accurate historical record."


Review by Ken Evans

I am delighted to post an accurate review of Hungry Trails which was sent to me by Ken Evans. Ken has expert knowledge on potato pests and diseases and has published extensively in this subject area. He read my book and emailed this to me. He has granted me permission to use on my website.

- "The harrowing details of events as they happened during the Irish famine years are starkly portrayed in this engrossing story. And it is as if the reader walks with Julie on her journey from her beloved homeland where she witnesses the desperate struggle for survival endured by her neighbours and fellow travellers as they risk the appalling journey to Canada. This is a story of hope and kindness as Julie is helped along the way. An unforgettable work deserving of its place in the ranks of Irish literature. I look forward to the next episode of Julie’s story."

Review of Hungry Trails by Kathleen Boyle on 3rd January 2023

- A cultural study of Ireland’s Great Hunger and a heartrending tale of resilience

"For those who love authentic Irish voices combined with priceless retellings of history, look no further than Máire Malone’s second novel, Hungry Trails, which follows one family’s vivid journey from Ireland to Montréal.

Sixteen-year-old Julie Foley watches her family’s fortunes wither under the incomprehensible burdens of Ireland’s 1840s potato famine and tenant farming unrest. She mourns her baby sister’s death, resists when destructives burn her family’s home, and subsequently benefits from the generosity of her former teachers in scenes so poignant readers will feel them etched in memory.

Mature for her age, Julie’s determination and resolve belong to someone who has lived and suffered many decades beyond their adolescent years. This makes her observations and the narrow lens of her perspective all the more touching. I struggle to imagine what it would have been like for a young person living in the times and conditions portrayed. Malone’s tact with these tragic subjects is admirable and the narrative benefits from her skilled writing.

As is often true for immigrants, hardship doesn’t stop when the family leaves their homeland.

When the Foley’s board a “coffin ship,” where thousands like them have perished while trying to cross the Atlantic, Julie meets Fionn McDonagh, a rebel and poet, who arouses her romantic interest and offers her a glimpse of what life might be like one day – if she can overcome a series of daunting tribulations. She will have to learn valuable lessons in some of the hardest moments and to find the strength to carry on.

All along, Malone does an exceptional job capturing the small joys that exist in the most difficult of times, and Julie’s relationship with Fionn is no exception. While sometimes the story is exceptionally hard to bear because of the tragic nature of what people like Julie endured, this budding romance offers readers a refreshing reprieve…

Malone’s ability to immerse us in this poignant account of resiliency is amplified by countless period details and a dialect that is both approachable and readily believable. I expect for years to come, whenever I think of Ireland’s Great Potato Famine, I will remember Hungry Trails. I heartily recommend it."

Reviewed by Susan Morris

Independent Book Review

- "Malone’s novel follows a 19th-century Irish family searching for a better life in Canada."

In August 1846, the Irish potato crop is black and diseased, and the stench of rotting vegetables permeates the air. Sixteen-year-old Julie Foley and her family are poverty-stricken, locked in a constant struggle against hunger, and life is about to get worse: Family friend Peader O’Donnell is forced to close his small school, which the Foley siblings have been attending. With their potato crop destroyed, Julie, her father, and her two brothers, Dermot and Cian, are forced into backbreaking work on a government road-building project. Starvation and despair plague the country. In March 1847, the family is evicted from their rented cottage. Peader and his wife, Sarah, offer several months of shelter and, in a spectacular act of friendship and generosity, present them with five tickets for passage to Canada. In July, the Foley family boards the ship Elizabeth and Sarah, bidding farewell to their homeland and taking their place among the hundreds packing the vessel’s steerage compartment, embarking on the arduous voyage across the Atlantic to Montreal. New opportunity awaits them as they set up their tiny home in Griffintown, Montreal’s immigrant section—but tragedy waits not far behind. Julie narrates the story, and it is through her meticulous descriptions of daily life, work, and family that the author captures the essence of the mid-19th-century immigrant’s fortitude and determination to overcome the odds and move forward in the New World. She flavors the narrative with sporadic Gaelic phrases… and verses from traditional Irish songs and poetry (“She is a rich and rare land / Oh! she’s a fresh and fair land / She is a dear and rare land – / This native land of mine”). She also nicely folds in pieces of Irish and Canadian history, the latter portrayed most dramatically when Julie and her employer, the formidable wealthy widow Mrs. McKinnon, scramble to aid the orphans displaced by an 1848 flood, which saw the St. Lawrence River overflow its banks and ravage Griffintown.

A touching, atmospheric, and culturally rich family chronicle. – Kirkus Reviews

Amazon Reviews:

- ‘’A brilliant read’’

"Hungry Trails is a beautifully written story about a young girl Julie and her family who have emigrated to Canada at the time of the Irish potato famine in the late 1840s. The background of how the famine affected life in Ireland was outlined in a sympathetic and authentic way. I was completely engrossed in her story and how she and her family members beat the odds to make the journey to Canada and make a life there. I felt I was living Julie's experiences alongside her and also empathised with the other characters and their lives. Highly recommended."

Signed: Mary.

Review posted on on January 30th, 2023.

- ‘’More than just another book about the Irish Famine’’

This is a well researched book which is not afraid to lay bare the horrors of life in Ireland during the famine and the conditions on the emigrant ships to North America but which manages to control any tendency to mawkishness or melodrama through a tightly controlled writing style. There are fascinating parallels to our current migrant crises and the exploitation of people desperate to get away from the travails of their homeland. Life in Canada amongst the Irish immigrant community is also well drawn. The opening up of opportunity is balanced by a continued sense of responsibility to family and reference to ongoing religious discrimination and discrimination more broadly, for example against the Native American population. The book is a very satisfying and gripping read with well worked characters, especially the central character Julie. Recommended for a wide range of readers but fans of historical fiction and an interest in Irish history in particular and the immigrant narrative more broadly​.

Signed: Katie Steele

Review posted on on 14th January 2023

- ‘’Learning about the Potato Famine in Ireland’’

Hungry Trails is an amazing story of the struggle and hardships of a family during the potato famine in Ireland. But what is outstanding is the obvious amount of research undertaken by the author. Coupled with the beautiful and sensitive style of Ms. Malone, it leaves nothing to the imagination of the suffering and degradation that families lived through. She brings light and love to the pages and it is clear that her writing is done with her heart and soul. I sincerely hope she continues with the lives of Julie and her family in a sequel to Hungry Traills.

Signed: Diane Madoc

Review posted on on 18th February, 2023

- ‘’Hungry Trails by Máire Malone’’

A very well written book about a very sad period in Irish history. Maire has captured with huge sensitivity the plight of an Irish family struggling to survive in Co. Mayo, their emigration on a ship to Canada and how they settled into a new life there. Her description of the various relationships between the members of the family and the people they encounter are wonderful, and her use of the Irish language and quotes from Irish poetry and song give the book a special charm. While the story is one of sadness there is also a strong sense of humour within the family who are so very resilient. I thoroughly enjoyed the book.

Signed Lor.

Review posted on on 26th January 2023

bottom of page