Study Guide

Brooklyn: A Novel Part 2

By Colm Tóibín

Part 2

  • Eilis wakes up in the middle of the night—it is so hot right now. Luckily, the weather should be cooling down in the coming weeks, which is a huge relief.
  • She's in America now, BTW. She lives with Mrs. Kehoe, a fellow Irish immigrant whose husband ditched her to explore the wild, wild West.
  • There are five other girls who live there: Miss McAdam (who's a little stuck-up), Patty and Diana (who seem cool), Sheila Heffernan, and Miss Keegan, a weirdo who lives in the basement.
  • It's now morning, so Eilis hurries to get ready before the other girls wake up. She's in a bummy mood, on account that she's received no letters from home yet despite having sent several.
  • She hustles to work—Bartocci's Department Store—and changes "in the women's room downstairs" (2.21). Although she interviewed with Miss Bartocci for the job (through Father Flood, of course) she mostly deals with the manager, Miss Fortini.
  • Eilis works the shop floor, which she finds pretty easy. She is shocked by some of the fancy women's clothing they sell, however.
  • During her third week, she arrives at the store to find signs with the words "FAMOUS NYLON SALE" plastered everywhere (2.41). Guys, we have a strange feeling that it's time for a sale.
  • It's a crazy day. Luckily, Eilis is allowed to take home some nylon for free, so she gets pairs for herself, Rose, her mother, and Mrs. Kehoe.
  • She's so hyped by the sale that she doesn't even notice that she has three letters waiting for her when she returns—one from her mom, one from Rose, and one from Jack.
  • There's nothing too meaningful in any of these letters, but they throw Eilis into a near-fatal bout of homesickness. She wakes up feeling equally depressed the next morning.
  • She tries to get a pick-me-up by visiting a diner on the way to work, but that idea crashes and burns. Eilis spends the workday in full-on zombie mode.
  • Another night, another depressive episode. Eilis thinks of her brother Jack and wonders how he overcame his feelings of homesickness.
  • It's a new day and Eilis is almost late to work—a first for her. She manages to get there on time, but Miss Fortini pulls her downstairs just the same.
  • Miss Fortini can tell that Eilis is hardcore bumming, and rightfully assumes that she's thinking about her "family at home" (2.98). Clever girl.
  • Miss Fortini leaves to talk to Miss Bartocci, which makes Eilis think that she's about to be fired. But then she returns with a sandwich, which is a good sign—we think, at least.
  • Father Flood shows up some after. He apologizes for not keeping a closer eye on her—he thought she was getting along like gravy here in the US of A.
  • He also has a possible cure for her ailment: night classes. Eilis has been meaning to get her accounting degree, after all, and schoolwork should help distract her from her homesickness.
  • Father Flood somehow gets Eilis into a "night class in bookkeeping and preliminary accountancy" tuition-free (2.146). Dang, Father Flood—you're an OG.
  • Eilis' textbooks are a breeze. Classes are a little harder, however, as her law professor Mr. Rosenblum tends to jump between topics at a breakneck pace.
  • As the holidays near, Father Flood asks Eilis to help him serve Christmas dinner to the needy at the church. She reluctantly agrees.
  • Eilis works on Christmas Eve, so she heads to the church as soon as she gets off. Father Flood explains that they'll be dealing with over two hundred wayward Irishmen tomorrow—yikes.
  • After midnight mass, Eilis starts prepping by "peeling vegetables in the big kitchen at the back" (2.206). Visitors start showing up after the 10 a.m. mass.
  • Pretty soon, the room is popping off. Eilis sees an older man who she mistakenly thinks is her dead father, which sort of shakes her up, but she manages to right herself.
  • It's actually a lovely time, full of booze, fine food, and general merriment. In fact, the night ends with the man she mistook for her father beautifully singing a traditional Irish number.