Narvla's Celtic New Year by Therese Gilardi
Age Group: Young Adult
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Release Date: April 6, 2015
Narvla’s life is as precisely choreographed as the routines that have made her a national step-dancing champion. She has a loyal best friend, a devoted boyfriend, and a lock on admission to her dream college, the University of Notre Dame - until her mother is named U.S.
Ambassador to Ireland, and her life unravels. First Narvla receives a disturbing picture of her boyfriend and her best friend. Then she struggles to qualify for the Irish elite step-dancing squad, and her grades plummet.
But the biggest obstacle in Narvla’s new life is Dublin Boy, a cheeky musician with a disdain for academics and a distrust of Americans.
Although Narvla is upset when she’s paired with Dublin Boy for the most important semester of her life, her real concern is the growing attraction she feels toward him. As the Celtic New Year unfolds, Narvla is pushed to abandon her lifelong need for control and embrace the charm of the unexpected.
The plane hits the ground so hard I’m not sure the pilot’s going to be able to stick the landing. As my seatbelt cuts into my stomach, he says, “Cead mile failte. A hundred thousand welcomes to Ireland”. Everyone around me claps.
On the edge of the runway the limousine the embassy sent is waiting for us. My mother is the new U.S. Ambassador to Ireland. That’s why I’m here in Dublin instead of back home in Connecticut, hanging out with Derek and Gabby when I’m not practicing for another step dancing competition. I follow Mom to the limo.
I stretch out across the leather seats as we ride along narrow, curvy roads, past tiny pubs and squat houses whose front doors open onto the sidewalk. Every few minutes our driver stops at a traffic light, and people peer into the car. Mom opens her window and waves. Most people wave back or smile, although a few just stare. Finally we arrive at an enormous park in the middle of the city, where we pass under an archway, through a black iron gate, and up a long driveway.
The U.S. Ambassador’s Residence looks like The White House. Tall French windows open onto a long terrace and a lawn that could double as a golf course. There are lots of chimneys, which I hope means lots of fireplaces, and dozens of rose bushes in large white planters. I wonder if I’m going to need a map to find my way around, since the house is the type of building that doesn’t just have floors, it has wings. An American flag so big it can probably be seen from the United States flutters on the roof.
“Is it true the president of Ireland is our only neighbor?”
“The president and all the animals of the Phoenix Park Zoo,” Mom says.
“Seriously? We’re living next to a zoo?”
“I promised you the experience of a lifetime, didn’t I?” Mom straightens her emerald velvet beret, which is one of her bestsellers. Mom owns “Mad Maeve’s Magnificent Millinery”, the company that makes those one of a kind lace hats that celebrities and fashion designers love. Mom has to take a leave of absence from “Mad Maeve’s” now that she’s the new ambassador, just like I’ve got to withdraw from Conrad Hill High School.
Although I’m unhappy about missing senior year in Connecticut, Mom says attending an Irish school will cinch my admission to Notre Dame, which is my dream college. Plus she’s promised I can return home to go to prom with Derek, and for the occasional visit with Dad. He can’t move to Ireland full-time because he’s working on several architecture projects in California. That’s why it’s just Mom and me in the limo.
“There he is,” Mom says as our driver stops in front of a massive wooden door. “I’m so pleased you’re finally going to meet Malcolm.”
A thin guy in a lime green, pink and black leather kilt opens the car door. Mom steps out of the limo and gives him a hug. He kisses her once on each cheek.
“Sorry we’re so late,” Mom says. “Weather delay.”
“Ah, no Irish journey’s complete without a bit of turbulence,” Malcolm says. “Why else do you think Aer Lingus paint the names of saints on the sides of their planes?”
Mom laughs but I don’t think it’s very funny. She spent the flight sleeping. I spent the entire seven-hour trip strapped into my seat, my hands wrapped around the armrests so tight my fingers are still cramped. I never knew before today that there are so many shades of lightening. Although when I look up at the sky there’s no hint of the storms that shook our plane, just a bunch of cotton ball clouds and a pale sun.
“You must be Miss Narvla. Welcome to Dublin,” Malcolm says, sticking out his hand. He smiles. He’s got fat lips, a slight overbite, pointy ears and a sleek blond Mohawk. He reminds me of a horse.
“Tell me that’s not the time,” Mom says, staring at the gold pocket watch hanging from Malcolm’s wool jacket. “Narvla I’m sorry but I have an appointment.”
“I’ll show you around,” Malcolm says, nodding at me. “Best to keep moving anyway, so the jet lag can’t catch you. Come on, we’ll take the light rail. It’s a bit of a walk through the park to the station. Good exercise after your long voyage.”
Phoenix Park is its own walled world. A medieval tower stands watch over carved monuments. Dozens of wild deer and freakishly long legged rabbits roam weedy meadows. Blacktopped paths crisscross wispy grass then disappear below the shadows of stone statues. Grungy backpackers, thickly wrapped babies, and far too many pigeons for my liking rest on wide benches. Near the tall gate that separates the park from the street, a small crowd stands beneath a leafy tree. Many of the people are leaning forward. As we get closer I see the reason why.
Therese Gilardi adores blue cameos, Irish pub music and the Paris metro. She lives with her own Irish Man, fluffy dogs and Viennese hare in the hills above Los Angeles.
Despite her fear of heights Therese's favorite place in Ireland is Slieve League Cliffs, near her family's ancestral home in Co. Donegal.
Therese believes sticky toffee pudding, Celtic knot jewelry and Oscar Wilde are Ireland's greatest exports. She is available for guest posts and interviews.