Warning: While there are no major book spoilers here, some major throughlines of the story are described. If you want everything to remain a complete surprise, don’t read this review!
I was in immediate bliss when I began reading Mark Schneider’s debut novel, "She Has the Right of It: An Irish-American Story." The first few pages are a very funny, memoirlike account of a certain 8-year-old “Mark Gallagher” belting out Elvis songs with eyes closed while riding his bike with no hands through the streets of Fargo in the '50s — with predictable results.
Over the next few chapters, I was transported, through the eyes of a mischievous young Mark, to a seemingly more innocent, good-humored time and place. Then, suddenly, the story reached out and grabbed me by the throat. I was quickly reminded that the 1950s had a certain duality: The outward innocence of the era often served to camouflage sinister activities just below the surface — and children were often victimized by the prevailing reticence to question authority.
But through his early adventures and tragedies, the young Mark Gallagher had a North Star: His innocent love, Molly, with whom Mark was close all through elementary school. When things were great, she made them better. When they were bad, she always knew the right thing to do.
But then... well, let’s just say that a hundred pages in, I felt like I’d already experienced a life beyond my own. But Mark was just getting started.
Almost magically, I then found myself in Dublin a century ago, with two heroic young women fighting for Irish freedom, ancestors of the family that young Mark Gallagher hoped to someday create with his Molly. As a reader, I was now vicariously living several lives, all intertwined along a genealogical path stretching from the “Troubles” of Ireland in the early 1900s through to the turbulent 1960s in the United States. I was enthralled.
Before it was over, I was enjoying a leisurely tour of Ireland in 1970, with college-aged Mark and Molly retracing the footsteps of her heroic female ancestors. Once again I was transported, through the eyes of a passionate young couple growing into the fullness of their new lives, as they took a reckoning of the sacrifices that had led them to be born in America, and had now brought them back to the Emerald Isle. A great, multigenerational journey was coming full circle.
Then the story suddenly reached out and grabbed me by the throat — again. Once more, I was shocked to my senses, this time by a surprise ending I hadn’t seen coming, one of the most enjoyable and satisfying of any book I’ve ever read.
"She Has the Right of It" brought me to tears of both laughter and sorrow many times. Part funny memoir, part family saga, part murder mystery, part historical fiction — this stunningly ambitious debut novel, just as stunningly, fully succeeds.
This St. Patrick's Day, Wednesday, March 17, Mark Schneider will be signing copies of his novel, "She Has the Right of It: An Irish-American Story," at Zandbroz Variety in downtown Fargo.
He'll sign the last 65 copies of the first printing of the book between 4 and 5:30 p.m. Wednesday at the store, 420 Broadway, or until they run out.
Who is Mark Schneider?
Mark has lived in the Fargo area for most of his life, except for several years when he was a regional attorney for the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights for the eight Southern U.S. states. He founded the Schneider Law Firm with his late brother, John, now famously run by his son, Mac Schneider. He is married to North Dakota Sen. Mary Schneider, D-Fargo, who was also his greatest inspiration for "She Has the Right of It."
As an accomplished litigator and senior law firm partner, Mark has written legal briefs in over 50 state supreme court and circuit court of appeals cases. "She Has the Right of It" is his first work of fiction.
Mark is a self-taught Irish history scholar and has traveled extensively in Ireland, visiting all of its counties and enjoying a delightful mix of its amazing people. He’s enjoyed intimate conversations with two Irish Nobel Laureates — Seamus Heaney and John Hume — as well as a one-on-one meeting with Irish President Michael Higgins.
Mark has served as chair of the North Dakota Governor’s Council on Human Resources, chair of the statewide Protection and Advocacy Project, and vice president of the Governor’s Council on the Status of Women. Mark was named to “The Best Lawyers in America” and “Great Plains Super Lawyers” many years running.
Marc de Celle is the author of the regional bestseller "How Fargo of You." He has also edited several books about our region, including "She Has the Right of It" by Mark Schneider.