Tom Phelan


Tom Phelan

Tom Phelan had just turned fifty when his first novel, In the Season of the Daisies, was accepted for publication by Lilliput Press in Dublin.

Books Ireland’s reviewer wrote, “The most obvious question posed by a novelistic debut with as much resounding vigor as this is:  Where has Mr. Phelan been?”

Since then, Tom has written five additional novels – Iscariot, Derrycloney, The Canal Bridge, Nailer and Lies the Mushroom Pickers Told – and has seen his works published in four countries and three languages.

Tom has also written for Newsday, The Irish Echo, The Journal of the American Irish Historical Association, and other publications.

Tom has given readings and talks at the West Cork Literary Festival, King’s Lynn Fiction Festival, Obras Portugal, Princess Grace Irish Library in Monaco, Hofstra University Summer Writers Conference, Irish Writers Centre, American Irish Historical Society, New York University Ireland House, Villanova University, Molloy College, Irish American Writers and Artists salons, and scores of other venues.

Tom was named a 2008-2009 Fellow of the Christopher Isherwood Foundation based on his novel The Canal Bridge.

He was the Fall 2012 Ireland Fund of Monaco writer-in-residence at the Princess Grace Irish Library in Monaco.

Born and raised on a farm in Mountmellick, County Laois, in the Irish midlands, Phelan now makes his home in New York.

Trace Literary secured a two book deal for Tom with Skyhorse Publishing USA.  In 2014, the U.S. edition of his novel of Ireland in World War I, The Canal Bridge, was published.  Books Ireland calls the book “a powerful and deeply affecting novel”.

In 2015, Skyhorse published his second novel, Lies the Mushroom Pickers ToldShelf Awareness describes this novel as “a masterful portrait of Irish village life disguised as a murder mystery”.

Simon & Schuster’s, Gallery Books, has picked up Tom’s newest work, We Were Rich and We Didn’t Know It, it will be published in March of 2019.

In the tradition of Frank McCourt’s Angela’s Ashes and Alice Taylor’s To School Through the Fields, Tom Phelan’s We Were Rich and We Didn’t Know It is a heartfelt and masterfully written memoir of growing up in Ireland in the 1940s.

Tom Phelan, who was born and raised in County Laois in the Irish midlands, spent his formative years working with his wise and demanding father as he sought to wrest a livelihood from a farm that was often wet, muddy, and back-breaking.

It was a time before rural electrification, the telephone, and indoor plumbing; a time when the main modes of travel were bicycle and animal cart; a time when small farmers struggled to survive and turkey eggs were hatched in the kitchen cupboard; a time when the Church exerted enormous control over Ireland.

We Were Rich and We Didn’t Know It recounts Tom’s upbringing in an isolated, rural community from the day he was delivered by the local midwife. With tears and laughter, it speaks to the strength of the human spirit in the face of life’s adversities.

There are some wonderful advance reviews for this beautiful memoir:

“We Were Rich and We Didn’t Know It will enrich your soul. Tom Phelan is an enormously gifted purveyor of the word and here he recounts the travails and triumphs of an Irish farm family, elevating same in glorious poetic prose. You don’t have to be Irish to cherish this literary gift-just being human and curious and from a family will suffice.”Malachy McCourt (younger brother of Frank McCourt)

“Other works have been situated at the same intersection of time and place, but rarely has the tale been told with such a charming simplicity of voice plus a vividness that fully captures the distinctive sound and pulse of Irish life.”Billy Collins (Poet Laureate)

“A tender recollection of growing up on a farm in Ireland in the 1940s. In precise, vibrant prose, novelist Phelan (Lies the Mushroom Pickers Told, 2015, etc.) creates… a captivating portrait of a bygone time.”Kirkus Reviews, starred review

Tom Phelan Books

Lies the Mushroom Pickers ToldThe Canal Bridge Paperback