Study Guide

Brooklyn: A Novel Quotes

  • Family

    As their mother's pension was small, they depended on Rose, who worked in the office of Davis's Mills; her wages paid for most of their needs. (1.86)

    For all intents and purposes, Rose is the one keeping the Lacey family together. With her father dead, her brothers in England, and Eilis just a hair too young to get a good job, Rose has no choice but to bring home the bacon. Luckily, she does it the same way she does everything else—with panache.

    She did not know if the other two also realized that this was the first time they had laughed at this table since Jack had followed the others to Birmingham. (1.121)

    Wow—a happy little family these folks are not. Still, it's mostly due to circumstances: the family has endured quite a few hardships over recent years, including the death of its patriarch. Regardless, it's a testament to the strength of their familial bond that they manage to stick together through thick and thin.

    "Oh, it'll kill me when she goes," her mother said. Her face wore a dark strained look that Eilis had not seen since the months after their father died. (1.218)

    This is the first time that Eilis' mom admits that she'll be bummed out when Eilis leaves for America. While this seems like a pretty obvious kind of thing to us (BREAKING NEWS: mother loves daughter), you have to remember that Eilis' family doesn't talk about their feelings, like, ever. In that context, this is a pretty big deal.

    She began to take note of all the details, thinking, for the first time in days, how she could include an account of them in a letter to her mother and Rose. (2.141)

    At first, Eilis can only look at America through the eyes of her family. If she sees something cool, she doesn't think about how she feels about it—she thinks about how her mom and sister will feel about it when she describes it in her letters. This is just a small way for her to keep them close to her heart while being so far away.

    As she realized that it could not be him, that she was dreaming, he took off his cap and she saw that the man did not look like her father at all. (2.220)

    Here, Eilis has just mistaken an old Irishman at Father Flood's parish for her deceased father. This is an important moment, as it represents Eilis realizing how important it is to be a part of Brooklyn's Irish community—it connects her to her home and, most importantly, the traditions and memories of her family.

    As he spoke, they all looked at him. Eilis noticed [...] that Frank was the most beautiful boy she had seen in her life. (3.544)

    In our opinion, Eilis falls for Tony in large part due to her love for his family (especially Frank). While these cheery Italian-Americans are nothing like her serious-minded Irish kin, their warmth and openness make her feel right at home.

    "It's Rose."
    "What happened to her?"
    "Your mother found her dead this morning." (3.691-693)

    We'd say that this is Eilis' worst fear realized, but we doubt that she ever expected this to happen. Rose was always so youthful and energetic—and so personally inspiring to her little sis—that the thought of her death is too much to bear.

    I know she'd love to see you, she keeps saying that is the only thing she is hoping for but we don't know what to say about it. (3.785)

    Rose's death forces Eilis to reexamine her relationship to her family. By now, she has fully integrated herself into life in Brooklyn, but this heartbreaking event makes her remember her obligation to her loved ones back home in Ireland.

    In the good cheer that followed the dessert she almost began to hope that he had told them that he and she were getting married. (3.940)

    In other words, Eilis hopes that Tony's family is acting so happy because they know she's now a part of their family. This is a reminder that, although Eilis is returning to Ireland to help her family through hard times, she has already begun building a new one in Brooklyn.

    Eilis [...] suddenly realized that she had seldom been alone with her before, she had always had Rose to stand between her and her mother. (4.15)

    It's not exactly a perfect family reunion back in Ireland—although Eilis loves her mom, she finds herself at a greater distance from her than ever before. This makes her realize that her family is never going to be the same without Rose around, and that she owes it to Rose's memory to live life as fully as her big sis always did.

  • Coming of Age

    Elias was proud of her sister, of how much care she took with her appearance and how much care she put into whom she mixed with in the town and the golf club. (1.87)

    Rose is everything Eilis wants to be when she grows up. She's classy and beautiful. She's a charming social butterfly. And she can hit golf balls harder than Ronda Rousey throws punches. While it's pretty awesome to have a big sis like this, it also sets an awfully high standard to live up to.

    Eilis felt like a child when the doctor would come to the house, her mother listening with cowed respect. (1.186)

    Although Eilis is almost an adult, her mother's overbearing nature makes her feel more like a kid. Call us crazy, fellow Shmoop-meisters, but it sounds like we have all of the ingredients for a classic coming-of-age story.

    As she turned and looked at her sister, Eilis wanted to suggest that they change places, that Rose [...] would be happier going to America. (1.223)

    Eilis' trip to America is the first thing that she's ever done by herself, so it's understandable that she's more nervous than a teenage girl at a 1D meet-and-greet.

    She found herself thanking him in a tone that Rose might have used [...] a tone used by a woman in full possession of herself. (1.231)

    Now that's how you do it, girl. Although she hasn't even begun her journey to America, Eilis is already following her sister's example and acting like a real lady. To be honest, it's probably a lot easier for her to do so when she's around people who don't know her.

    Georgina, she thought, would know what to do, as would Rose or her mother [...] But she had no idea what to do. (1.330)

    Although she's made strides, Eilis is still a frightened little girl at heart. She still looks at adults and assumes that they know everything, which is an illusion that typically gets shattered as soon as you become one.

    When Eilis looked at herself in the mirror she was surprised. She seemed older and, she thought, almost good-looking. (1.392)

    Didn't take long, huh? Once she leaves home, Eilis has no choice but to adapt to adulthood, and we'd say that she passes this test with flying colors. What's more, she can feel that something has changed, even if she doesn't entirely understand what.

    Instead, she determined that she would buy something, even just new shoes, which would make her feel more like the girls she had seen dancing. (3.12)

    Although Eilis feels more adult after moving to America, it takes her some time to grow into the glamorous lady she secretly wants to be. This is mostly a confidence issue. Regardless, this passage shows that she's finally taking a step in the right direction.

    "You'll have to shave down here," she said. "Otherwise, you'll spend your time on the beach pulling the elastic down." (3.572)

    Nothing says "coming of age story" quite like some good old-fashioned feminine shaving advice, eh? This quote shows Eilis realizing that she's a sexual being… which is an important part of any person's growth into adulthood.

    She noticed a woman studying her and she realized with amusement [...] that she must look glamorous in these streets. (4.33)

    Eilis doesn't realize how much she's grown until she returns to her childhood home of Ireland. There, she's reminded of how much she's grown in relation to the unchanging small town of her youth and can't help but feel a tinge of pride.

    "You seem more grown up and serious. And in your American clothes you look different. You have an air about you." (4.185)

    You know what they say kids: American women gonna mess with your mind. Lenny Kravitz/Guess Who lyrics aside, this is another reminder of how much Eilis has grown over the past few years, whether she realizes it or not. Aw, jeez—our little Eily is all grown up and now we have all the feels.

  • Visions of Brooklyn

    Father Flood was tall; his accent was a mixture of Irish and American. (1.164)

    Father Flood straddles the line between America and Ireland: he might be a good old Irish boy at heart, but he has a panache and take-no-prisoners attitude that could only be born in Brooklyn.

    "Parts of Brooklyn," Father Flood replied, "are just like Ireland. They're full of Irish." (1.181)

    Although Brooklyn is on the other side of the globe, there are enough Irish immigrants in the borough to foster a thriving expatriate community. This ends up helping Eilis a lot.

    America might be further away and so utterly foreign in its systems and its manners, yet it had an almost compensating glamour attached to it. (1.226)

    For a small town girl like Eilis, Brooklyn is the most amazing and glamorous city in the world. It's like London on steroids; like Dublin with Botox. It might be a little intimidating (okay, very intimidating) but Eilis is too excited to worry about her fears and hesitations.

    She liked the morning air and the quietness of these few leafy streets, streets that had shops only on the corners, streets where people lived. (2.20)

    Although this might not be the typical conception of Brooklyn, much of the borough is just like this—quiet, quaint neighborhoods with beautiful, tree-lined streets. Unlike Manhattan—which is all hustle and bustle—Brooklyn has a few spots where Eilis can just chill.

    When she arrived at Fulton Street, there would be so many people crowding to cross the street [...] that on the first morning she thought a fight had broken out. (2.20)

    Of course, there are some parts of Brooklyn that are busier than a Walmart on Black Friday. While this intense activity frightens Eilis at first, it also energizes her, giving her a bit of that New York energy that makes the city so unique: concrete jungle where dreams are made of. And if you're not singing that Alicia Keys/Jay-Z song right now, then something must be wrong with you.

    "Brooklyn changes every day [...] New people arrive and they could be Jewish or Irish or Polish or even coloured [...] We treat everyone the same." (2.22)

    Throughout its history, New York City has been defined—and built—by immigrants and other hard-working people fighting to make better lives. Though the particulars of their demographics might change over time, this hard-working community spirit lives on.

    "It's a funny place, Brooklyn," Father Flood said. "As long as the guy in charge is not Norwegian—and in a college that's unlikely—then I can pull strings most places." (2.137)

    You heard it first here, folks—Norwegians are the strictest schoolmasters on the planet. Jokes (and outdated ethnic stereotypes) aside, this quote shows us the incredible diversity that defines Brooklyn. After all, he follows this up by praising Jewish people because they seem to love priests. It sometimes sounds like a silly "walks into a bar" joke, but it's really pretty cool.

    As soon as Eilis returned to her classes at Brooklyn College the baseball frenzy became worse. (3.644)

    Eilis' least favorite part of living in Brooklyn is how much everyone loves baseball. We feel her on that one. Still, she should thank her lucky stars that fantasy sports didn't exist at the time. We shudder at the thought.

    She ordered a beer too, her first ever, and tried to run the mustard and ketchup along the hot dog with the same flourish as Tony and Frank. (3.663)

    Okay, now we feel like lighting fireworks and listening to Toby Keith because that is the most American thing we've ever heard. Although she's still a small town Irish lass at heart, Eilis' inner Brooklynite is starting to rear its hot dog-loving head.

    No American man would be seen on a beach in anything like that, she thought. Nor would two men in Coney Island move as unself-consciously as these two did. (4.135)

    After returning home after Rose's death, Eilis is reminded of the many differences between Brooklyn and Ireland. Although she's still charmed by many aspects of her home-country—as she is here—she ultimately decides that Brooklyn is the place where she wants to be. Huzzah—free slices of pizza for everyone!

  • Memory and the Past

    And then it occurred to her that she was already feeling that she would need to remember this room, her sister, this scene, as though from a distance. (1.186)

    Eilis is so nostalgic that she starts missing the past while it's still the present. Still, given that she'll be halfway across the planet (in an era, we must add, that you couldn't just use Snapchat or Skype to keep in touch), it's understandable that she's hesitant to leave the only home she's ever known.

    What she would need to do in the days before she left and on the morning of her departure was smile, so that they would remember her smiling. (1.225)

    Eilis is concerned with presenting a happy face so her family remembers her at her best. That's really thoughtful, and it shows that Eilis has a maturity well beyond her years. No matter how mature she might be, however, she's still totally unprepared for how this journey will change her as a person.

    For the past few weeks, she realized, she had not really thought of home. The town had come to her in flashing pictures [...] but her own life [...] she had kept out of her mind. (2.54)

    Interestingly, Eilis isn't actually homesick at first. Although she occasionally thinks about Ireland, she never dwells on her memories long enough to get truly bummed out. That's totally an effective strategy but, as we see here, it can only work for so long before all those memories start flooding back. And what's she supposed to do when that happens?

    Miss Keegan said that it was not really Christmas if you were not in your own house in Ireland, and she was going to be sad all day. (2.184)

    This is a frightening thought. If Miss Keegan, who's been in America for some time, still can't fully shake her nostalgia for her home, then what hope does Eilis have? As it turns out, the trick is to make new memories that hold as much meaning as the old ones—like helping out Father Flood at the parish Christmas party.

    Eilis read the letter a few times and [...] she could hear Jack's voice in the words he wrote, she could feel him in the room with her. (3.787)

    Although Eilis can ignore her memories when she's caught up in the hustle-and-bustle of Brooklyn life, her family's letters bring them all back in full force. This can be overwhelming for Eilis, and ends up causing her a great deal of emotional anguish.

    It was as though Rose's death had happened long ago, and her night with Tony remained with her as something powerful, still present. (3.827)

    Now this is what we were talking about when we suggested that Eilis should create new memories. Although Eilis is never quite sure if she made the right decision by doing the hanky-panky with Tony, it does comfort her on some level because it shows that life continues, even in the face of tragedy.

    Eilis concentrated on Rose's spirit and tried to keep her mind from dwelling on what was happening to Rose's body just beneath them in the damp clay. (4.41)

    In other words, Eilis is trying to think of Rose as she was at her best, not how she is now. We're sure big sis would have wanted it that way, too. After all, Rose did a lot for her sister, and it's only fitting that Rose be remembered as she truly was—classy, talented, and a monster on the golf course.

    In the morning it was hard not to think that she was Rose's ghost, being fed and spoken to in the same way at the same time by her mother. (4.102)

    Unable to fully accept her eldest daughter's death, Mrs. Lacey tries to make Rose's memory live on by turning Eilis into a walking, talking wax replica of her deceased older sister. It's a little creepy—like Mrs. Lacey is a psychic trying to channel a spirit.

    And not only that, but everything else that had happened in Brooklyn seemed as though it had almost dissolved and was no longer richly present for her. (4.190)

    Now that she's returned to Ireland, Eilis is put in a strange position—it's Brooklyn that's in her past. Funny how things work out, huh? In fact, it almost feels like she never left Ireland in the first place, like it was just one really long (and insanely detailed) dream that she's just now waking up from.

    Some time in the future, she thought, she would look at them and remember what would soon, she knew now, seem like a strange, hazy dream to her. (4.366)

    Ultimately, Eilis lets go of her experiences in Ireland (and her brief romance with Jim Farrell) because she knows that it's not the direction she wants her life to go in. That doesn't mean she'll necessarily look back with regret—instead, she'll treasure the memories on their own merit.

  • Respect and Reputation

    As each customer came into the shop [...] Miss Kelly had a different tone. Sometimes she said nothing [...] And then there were customers whom she greeted warmly and by name. (1.80)

    Miss Kelly is so judgmental and snooty that we don't know how Eilis stays sane while working at her shop. It would be bad enough if she was only a jerk to the customers, but she treats Eilis in a condescending fashion too, often subtly alluding to her family's lower social status in relation to her own. We're getting annoyed just thinking about her.

    Miss McAdam [...] sniffed her nose disapprovingly if anyone passed by them who she thought was Italian or Jewish. (2.11)

    If nothing else, this shows that people are just as condescending and judgmental in America as they are in Ireland. The main difference is that in America there are a whole bunch of different ethnic groups to stereotype and look down on.

    It was clear to her that her landlady's last remark carried with it the firm idea that she and Eilis stood apart from the other lodgers. (3.35)

    This happens quite a bit in the novel and it drives Eilis nuts every time. Although she's appreciative of the preferential treatment she receives from Mrs. Kehoe, Eilis is fundamentally opposed to elitism of any sort—probably because she's been a victim of it plenty of times.

    Eilis would have given anything now to have been with them, dressed like them, to be glamorous herself, too easily distracted by the jokes and smiles of those around her. (3.116)

    Although Eilis is an uber-nerd, she secretly wishes that she could be a party kid. She has a hard time making that leap, however. Whether this hesitation comes from a lack of confidence, concern over her reputation, or just fear, Eilis desperately wishes that she didn't care what others thought about her.

    "I was just going to say that I heard there are coloured women going into Bartocci's," Miss McAdam said. For a moment no one spoke (3.198)

    For Eilis' roommates, Bartocci's decision to open up its doors to African-Americans is a big scandal. For Eilis, on the other hand, it isn't really a big deal—after all, their new customers are just as classy and glamorous as their old ones, so what's the difference?

    "Maybe if we got rid of some of the wallflowers, Sheila," Eilis said, "with the sour look on their faces." (3.409)

    Sheila and Miss McAdam constantly make Eilis feel bad for wanting to live her life on her own terms. Well, ladies, we're not trying to rub salt in your wounds or anything, but consider yourself slammed.

    He managed to let her know that he meant more than he said, that he was suggesting it might be hard [...] having a daughter who would take a man home to her room for the night. (3.876)

    Oh no—it seems like Father Flood has somehow heard that Eilis slept with Tony. While this might not seem like a big deal today, it would have been a pretty big scandal in the period that Brooklyn take place in. For her part, Eilis feels guilty, not because she thinks that she shouldn't have done it, but because she knows that it will damage her reputation.

    How easy would it be to divorce someone? [...] The only divorced people anyone in the town knew were Elizabeth Taylor and [...] other film stars. (4.218)

    While we're not entirely convinced that Eilis and Tony should rush into a divorce, we definitely empathize with her here. Could you imagine living in a time when you'd be ostracized for getting a divorce? Sheesh—the only people we're judgmental about are judgmental people.

    He was, she thought, good, and he was also wise and clever in certain ways, but he was conservative. He liked his position in the town. (4.264)

    Although Eilis' feelings towards Jim Farrell are very real, she knows that he'd flip his lid if he found out the truth about her. Her being married (to an Italian, of all people) would be a huge scandal that would damage his reputation. Love goes a long way, but not that far.

    "She told me the whole thing. The world, as the man says, is a very small place." (4.309)

    And now we end in the place we started—with Mrs. Kelly being her typical condescending, judgmental self. If nothing else, this should remind Eilis why she left Ireland in the first place.

  • Dreams, Hopes, and Plans

    She had a sense too [...] that, while the boys and girls from the town who had gone to England did ordinary work for ordinary money, people who went to America could become rich. (1.188)

    Do you think this is accurate, or is Eilis just fooling herself? It certainly seems like it could be true, as Eilis does indeed quickly move up the ranks of her job after she moves to America. On the other hand, this might just be great marketing—after all, the best way to convince new people to come to your country is to make their future there sound amazing.

    Even the notepaper itself seemed [...] more promising than anything of its kinds she had seen before. (1.196)

    Even American paper seems to be more optimistic than Irish paper. Weird. If nothing else, this shows how excited Eilis is becoming about the prospect of starting a new life in America.

    Her mind moved [...] towards the thought that she was going to lose this world for ever [...] that the rest of her life would be a struggle with the unfamiliar. (1.221)

    While the thought of starting over in America is exhilarating, it also forces Eilis to say goodbye to her future in Ireland. She had always just assumed that she would grow up and live a life not unlike her mother's, staying in the same town, and seeing the same people. Suddenly, however, that future isn't quite so guaranteed.

    "A lot of them started like you, on the shop floor. And they did night classes and studied and now they're in the office." (2.25)

    Eilis hits the ground running as soon as she reaches Brooklyn. She's always wanted to be an accountant, but now she finally has the resources to make that dream become a reality. Not the most exciting dream, sure, but we'll take it.

    She realized that, unless she wanted to lose her job, she would have to make a decision to lift herself out of whatever it was that was affecting her. (2.123)

    This is an important moment for Eilis. Although she had been working towards her dreams prior to this, she's remained in a passive role because she's not confident in herself. Now, however, she realizes that she better start swimming or she'll start sinking. So paddle away, Eilis—paddle away.

    He talked big, asking them all the time to imagine that they were the president of a large corporation, larger than that owned by Henry Ford. (2.68)

    Mr. Rosenblum, Eilis' law teacher, makes Eilis dream bigger than she ever has before. Although we're not sure if she'll ever actually build a corporation that rivals those of the big boys, this mental exercise shows Eilis that there are no limits to her dreams except the ones she places on herself.

    And yet she knew that in his mind Tony was moving faster than she was, and she knew that she would have to slow him down. (3.466)

    The entrance of Tony "The Italian Stallion" throws all of Eilis' plans out of whack. This situation becomes even more complicated after Tony makes it clear that he's head-over-heels for her. Although Eilis digs the kid, she's not quite ready to go that far.

    His saying that he loved her and his expecting a reply frightened her, made her feel that she would have to accept that this was the only life she was going to have. (3.467)

    Every time Eilis seems to have a handle on her life, something pops up and throws a wrench into her plans. For example, Eilis was having a great time casually dating Tony, but then he just has to muck things up by making it more serious. This forces Eilis to make a big decision—if she would rather have a future with Tony, or without him.

    She knew this was his way not only of asking her to marry him but of suggesting that marriage had been already tacitly agreed between them. (3.668)

    Once again, Tony is trying really hard to make sure that he and Eilis have a future together, which could either be adorable or annoying depending on your perspective. Still, Eilis eventually agrees to marry him, which means that everything is all good, right? Right?

    She had never mentioned to Tony that she would like to keep working, even if just part time. (4.107)

    This is our first glimpse that Eilis and Tony's future together is going to be even more complicated than their past. Just remember this, Eilis—in Italian-American families, the ladies always run the show.

  • Love

    Later, during the week [...] she forgot what she was looking forward to and sometimes she actually believed that she was looking forward to thinking about home. (3.349)

    Eilis is crushing on Tony so hard that she almost entirely forgets about her crippling feelings of homesickness. Before she met him, she had nothing to look forward to at the end of the day except for her lonely room. Now that Tony is around, however, she has someone to talk to, to share her feelings with, and, most importantly, to make out with.

    He was in such good humor [...] that she felt an immense tenderness for him and wondered if she would ever see a side of him that was disagreeable. (3.442)

    These two lovebirds are so firmly planted in the "honeymoon" stage of their relationship that it's nauseating—everything is sunshine and roses and kissie-faces and infuriatingly cute pet names. As with all relationships, however, the true test comes only after this blissful early stage ends.

    Recently too he had begun to tell her after he kissed her that he loved her and she knew that he was waiting for a response, a response that, so far, she had not given. (3.464)

    And here's the point where the honeymoon period ends. Although Eilis cares about Tony a great deal, she's not quite ready to commit to him in the same way that he does to her. That makes sense, though—he's a lot more experienced in the romantic realm than she is. Regardless, he better not get too pushy or he'll end up shoving her away.

    He was delighted by her [...] Yet somehow that delight seemed to come with a shadow, and she wondered [...] if she herself [...] was the shadow and nothing else. (3.470)

    Here, Eilis is wondering if her instinctual need to retain her independence is putting a strain on her relationship with Tony. More than that, however, she's wondering if this hard-to-get nature is exactly what makes Tony so interested in her in the first place. This is certainly a valid question, but it seems to us like Tony's feelings are quite real.

    Tony came every night to meet her after the classes and she liked how he allowed her to remain silent if she wanted. (3.782)

    After Rose's death, Tony shows Eilis a capacity for empathy and understanding that knocks her socks off. He isn't pressuring her about marriage or begging her to tell him that she loves him anymore—he's simply being there for her in her time of need.

    As they walked back and sat eating hot dogs at Nathan's, Eilis spotted someone at the next table checking out her wedding ring. She smiled to herself. (3.949)

    So, yeah—they get married. Although Eilis will later claim that this whole marriage was a mistake (which we'll get into later), this shows that she is happy about it on some level. Their situation might be complicated, but Tony and Eilis clearly love each other a great deal—at least at this point.

    She wondered for a second [...] how she would feel if she learned that Tony had gone to Coney Island on a day like today with a friend and two young women. (4.137)

    Well, we think that we could take a guess—she'd probably feel pretty crummy. It's almost as if Eilis was struck with amnesia as soon as she returned to Ireland, picking up her life exactly where she left off and hooking up with the boy she would have ended up with if she had never gone to Brooklyn in the first place.

    She tried to think of Tony now as a loving and comforting presence, but she saw instead someone she was allied with whether she liked it or not. (4.193)

    Yikes—that's a scary thing to be thinking about your husband. As Eilis becomes closer to Jim, realizing that he represents a completely different type of man than Tony, she realizes that her reasons for marrying her Italian sweetheart weren't as straightforward as she led him (and us) to believe.

    It occurred to her, as she walked down the aisle with Jim and her mother [...] that she was sure that she did not love Tony now. (4.226)

    Wow, that was quick. While we're not one hundred percent sure that Eilis means this—she's been known to change her mind at the drop of the hat—it shows that her relationship with Tony isn't as perfect as it may seem from the outside looking in.

    "I mean if you have to go back, then maybe we could get engaged before you go." (4.264)

    Anyone else getting a sense of deja vu? If nothing else, this should show Eilis once and for all that she's a real catch, and deserves real love, not just the affection of the first guy who notices her.

  • The Home

    Miss Kelly was the only one who mentioned the possibility of her coming home on holidays. No one else mentioned it. (1.215)

    When Eilis decides to leave Ireland, she does so assuming that she'll never be able to return to her childhood home. To be honest, it was a lot harder to globe-trot back when you couldn't just take an Uber to an airport.

    Rose was thirty now, and since it was obvious that their mother could never be left to live alone [...] Rose would not be able to marry. (1.222)

    And not just that—it also means that Rose will never be able to leave home. In many ways, Rose is sacrificing herself for her sister, bearing the burden of her mother's care so Eilis can move on to a better life. This is a selfless act, and not one that Eilis will ever forget.

    His saying that at the beginning he would have done anything to go home was strange. He had said nothing about this in his letters. (1.305)

    Although Eilis has no idea how to handle her feelings of homesickness, she takes some comfort in the knowledge that her brother Jack went through similar emotions. Even with this, however, she struggles to figure out how to dig herself out of the hole of depression.

    All of this came to her like a terrible weight and she felt for a second that she was going to cry. (2.55)

    This is what happens when Eilis first receives letters from back home. Instead of making her feel better, they just remind her of everything that she's left behind. What a bummer.

    She was nobody here. It was not just that she had no friends and family; it was rather that she was a ghost in this room, on the streets on the way to work. (2.56)

    At this point in the novel, Eilis still hasn't built up a social support system to help her get through these hard times. Even worse than that, however, she feels like no one notices her, that no one understands her. If we were in her position, we'd be praying for teleportation powers every night before we went to bed.

    She considered writing to him now asking him if he too had felt like this, as though he had been shut away somewhere and was trapped in a place where there was nothing. (2.77)

    At her lowest point, Eilis feels like she's in exile from her homeland. There's nothing for her here in America except for loneliness, and she'd give anything to see the craggy coast of Ireland once again. But here's the thing about hitting rock bottom, folks—once you've reached your lowest point, the only place left to go is up.

    Eilis thought, as she sat down with a glass of sherry in her hand, that it could have been a parish hall anywhere in Ireland on the night of concert. (2.239)

    Eilis doesn't only get spiritual fulfilment from Father Flood's church—she gets a community. Although she may be far away from home, being among so many rowdy Irishmen gives her a small but powerful connection to her home country. This makes a huge difference.

    Eilis loved her room, loved putting her books at the table opposite the window when she came in at night and [...] spending an hour [...] looking over the lecture notes. (3.156)

    It takes a long time, but Eilis eventually feels at home in Mrs. Kehoe's boarding house. Of course, it helps that she scores the best room in the building, a secluded basement perfect for late-night studying or—uh—other late-night activities. Either way, it's a big step for Eilis that she's finally looking at Brooklyn as a home, rather than a prison.

    Her mother showed Eilis Rose's bedroom [...] She had left everything, she said, exactly as it was, including all of Rose's clothes in the wardrobe and in the chest of drawers. (4.1)

    That's... a little creepy. We shouldn't come down too hard on Mrs. Lacey, however, as losing a child is a pain that we can't even fathom—a little bit of irrationality is par for the course in this context. Still, we're not sure if having an ever-present shrine to your deceased daughter is the most effective way to make peace with her memory.

    She was glad she did not have to write now from her bedroom, which seemed empty of life, which almost frightened her in how little it meant to her. (4.11)

    Although Eilis loves her family and friends in Ireland, returning there after Rose's death forces her to admit that it's not her home anymore. For better or for worse, that place is in her past now—her real home is in Brooklyn, New York. Naturally, this is an incredibly bittersweet moment for her.