Using experimental techniques, Boots on the Burren tells a story of adventure laced with oppressive guilt. Like many Americans, the narrator has journeyed to Ireland to search out his roots and learn about the land his ancestors so long ago abandoned. But in doing so, he has had to leave his ill, bedridden mother behind. She can experience the trip only vicariously, through his letters home.
This small, contemporary story of two people reflects upon the guilt attached to centuries of Irish immigration by flipping the historical norm on its head. For so long, the Irish have left their homeland with good intentions, leaving behind loved ones who could not make the trip themselves. These are the lost generations of Irish. As Irish writer John Keane has said, “Immigration from Ireland is a way of life.”
Boots on the Burren uses the loneliness and otherworldliness of the most unusual and desolate landscape in Ireland, the Burren, and the personal story of a young American abroad, as vessels for reflection on what centuries of mass immigration must do to a nation, and the tension between the exhilaration at getting out and the guilt and sadness at leaving so many behind, that millions of Irish immigrants must have felt.