Across the bridge, Main Street became Court Street. She passed the nut store and inhaled a heavenly aroma of roasting cashews. Her mother used to buy Spanish peanuts and penuche fudge whenever they stopped there. The surrounding buildings with empty storefronts and signs of years of neglect saddened Maeve. Sketchy characters lingered in the doorways. A turn down Washington Street took her past a growing gallery district. At least this part of downtown looked promising, she thought.
“As she headed toward home, Maeve remembered she was supposed to meet with Andy. He hadn’t given her resume any thought since they last spoke. Drat. Bono was right; she still hadn’t found what she was looking for – whatever that was.”
— from “The Cyber Miracles”
“The Cyber Miracles” by Mary Pat Hyland opens with a scene of apprehension and glamorous excitement in New York City, turns from a silly misfortune to a personal tragedy and then whips its protagonist through incidents that are both trying and comical before settling into themes of genuine religious experience. All this happens with an Irish lilt and, for readers in New York’s Southern Tier, a strong sense of local color.
Hyland’s protagonist Maeve Kenny is a Binghamton girl who has found her dream job with the New York office of an Irish public relations firm called Clú (the name is Irish Gaelic for “renown” – there is a Gaelic glossary in the back of the book). Maeve is also dating a handsome soap opera actor and seems to be enjoying Irish luck when a foolish mistake costs her the job. She parts company with good Irish friends and goes back to her old hometown. The move should only be temporary, but her mother suddenly dies and Maeve stays on to give support to her father. She finds a job with the (fictional) Binghamton Herald. Editor Dom Dellapenta is an old classmate but also a bullying boss on the rebound from a national career that fell apart.
Maeve also meets up with her next door neighbor Andy Krall, a paraplegic computer expert who helps her design a personal website and becomes a steady friend. He adds a webcam image of a statue of the Virgin Mary located in a small grotto in her family’s backyard. Tears appear on the face of the Madonna accompanied by a Gregorian chant and soon devout Catholics worldwide discover the website and their devotion seems to bring forth miracles. Maeve herself could use divine intervention in her life. Her actor boyfriend has taken up with another woman, her father has become involved with a lady tai chi instructor, the internet image has been traced to Binghamton and Maeve becomes the unwelcome center of attention.
Mary Pat Hyland draws on her own experience for many of the details in “The Cyber Miracles”. She was for several years a columnist and editorial writer for the Binghamton Press & Sun-Bulletin and her column on surfing Websites was syndicated in over 90 newspapers in the U.S. and Canada. Mary Pat is also an instructor in the Irish language and performs traditional Irish music with her family musical group, the Hylands.
Mary Pat Hyland joins Bill Jaker on OFF THE PAGE to tell about making the switch from journalism to fiction and setting her debut novel in a place she covered as a reporter. She’ll also tell about Irish culture in Ireland and elsewhere and share some Irish poetry in the original Gaelic and in English translation.