Novelist Therese Walsh’s visit to Off the Page comes a few days before Thanksgiving, and her new book “The Last Will of Moira Leahy” also starts in that time frame. The opening lines are, “I lost my twin to a harsh November nine years ago”, and Maeve Leahy wishes the days of this month would just disappear. But the coming days will change her as much as the preceding nine years have. It is not just the intangible passage of time that brings that renewal; the action is advanced by a potent prop — a keris, a ceremonial dagger from the island of Java like the one that figured in the play piracy of the young Leahy twins. Maeve Leahy, Ph.D., is a 25-year old professor of Romance languages at Betheny College — a fictional institution set in one of those tidy antique-feeling college towns of upstate New York — and even with the holidays approaching she does not plan to go back home to Castine, Maine and renew the strained relationship with her parents and troubled memories of her sister.
But she is motivated — almost forced — to go to Rome, Italy in search of the empu, the Javanese artisan who had been leaving her cryptic messages back in Betheny. The sudden trip to Europe puts her on the same continent as her old boyfriend Noel, who has also been in a quest to find the missing pieces of his life. Therese Walsh alternates chapters about the Leahy girls and their adolescent experiences in Castine with Maeve’s quest in Rome and her relationship with Noel. The teenage romance of Moira and their neighbor boy Ian creates a barrier that will rupture the bonds between the twin sisters and lead to tragedy. But as that is recalled, the need to locate the empu and hold on to the keris (which is constantly in danger of being stolen or getting lost) gives Maeve the courage and the clarity to remember and forgive.
Therese Walsh, who lives in Binghamton, spent six years writing and rewriting “The Last Will of Moira Leahy”. She holds a master’s degree in psychology and was a researcher and writer for Prevention Magazine. Therese is also co-founder of the blog Writer Unboxed, which Writer’s Digest named as one of the 101 best websites for writers.