Fri, Oct


Historical Fiction



Fadó, pronounced f’doe, is an Irish expression meaning “long ago” or “in years past.” The term was commonly recited as an introduction to old Irish stories related by a Seanchaidh (shana-'kee), a Gaelic word meaning a teller of tales, an antiquarian, or historian. A Seanchaidh was regarded as an important and highly revered member in Irish society.It is by this unique story-telling device that author Kevin O’Donnell chronicles the confluence of two distinct cultures: one in Ireland, the other in the American heartland.

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 The stories reach back to 1835 Ireland, while providing an historical account of Mundelein, Illinois, his boyhood village, during the same period. The narrative relates their simultaneous development, their unique ties, and the subsequent events that resulted from their confluence in 1959 when his family moved to the small, mid-west town which O’Donnell describes as: “so far on the outskirts of Chicago, it wasn’t even considered a suburb…too small to be called modest and too blue-collar to be called middle-class.” Resonating throughout each chapter is the underlining story of a son eager to please his father and prove his worth. Each chapter is a succession of journeys the author takes to appease, understand, and eventually escape from under his father’s shadow.

The author relates insightful stories from his early life and his journey into adulthood and acknowledges several of the village’s first settlers and we later discover how the lives of their descendants and the author become intertwined.

Each tale reveals the impact and influence of his small town upbringing and reflects his deep-seated interest in his heritage, his passion for history, his “addiction” to music, and the extent of the heavy-hand of the Catholic Church. Resonating throughout is the story of a boy trying to please and understand his father. These become central elements in O’Donnells life and come full-circle, with the author’s final, loving tribute to his immigrant father . The book concludes with several references and links to events that occur in earlier chapters and the in author’s life, and where previous,  unresolved stories are distilled to the true meaning of Fadó.


Author Kevin O’Donnell describes himself as a narrowback, what the Irish in Chicago refer to as a child of immigrant parents thought to be unfit for the hard physical labor typically performed by those in the country of their ancestors. The third of seven children, he was born on Mother’s Day, 1955, in Bayonne, New Jersey, "a blue-collar paradise tucked underneath Exit 14A of the Jersey turnpike between Newark Airport and Jersey City.“ Bayonne in the 1950’s was famous for two things,” O’Donnell admits, “rusting shipyards and an incredible view of the Statue of Liberty’s behind.” His family moved to Waukegan, Illinois, in 1956, a town that he describes as “a lot like Bayonne, but without the view.” The family ultimately settled in the Village of Mundelein, Illinois, in September 1959, an event the author insists, “was the result of a witness protection program necessitated by terrorizing the good Sisters at St. Therese Hospital during my incarceration as an accident-prone and recalcitrant four-year-old.”

 His formative years in the village of his childhood centered around four things: a staunch Catholic education, a deep-seated interest in his Irish heritage, an insatiable love of music, and a passion for history. Each would play a pivotal role in his journey toward adulthood, and in the daily travails of a poor, large, hard-working, hard-drinking Irish-Catholic family in a town full of “Publics.”
After a brief stint in college, Mr. O’Donnell married and began earning extra income as a musician in pubs and at festivals around Chicago, playing the traditional Irish music he learned from his immigrant parents. This is when his love for writing emerged.

He founded and led the Irish-American folk band “Arranmore” (named after his father’s birthplace in County Donegal, Ireland) and enjoyed years of modest success as front man for the group, co-producing and recording seven albums and writing the ensemble’s original material. Several of Mr. O’Donnell’s songs have since become folk standards, including: “Island Home” and the song-documentary, “The Illinois and Michigan Canal.”

His songwriting skills led to freelance writing as a music reviewer and as a contributing editor in a high-profile pharmaceutical trade journal, for which he continues to pen a monthly column. This is where I learned the mechanics of writing,” he says, “by facing the wrath of the heartless copy editor. But it forced me to become a better writer.” It also fueled his passion for writing short stories, most of which incorporate the historical themes and undertones begun in his song writing days. Years of developing an engaging narrative style of strong visual images blended with conversational storytelling have evolved to become his hallmark. O’Donnell attributes honing his storytelling abilities from his involvement as a stage actor with the prestigious Racine Theatre Guild from 2000-2005, where he was cast in the lead role and as principle characters in various dramas and comedies including: Twelve Angry Men, The Sensuous Senator, The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged), Flowers for Algernon, and I Ought To Be In Pictures.

“The new millennium brought with it significant change. I retired from music after twenty-two years, retired from a twenty-six year career at Abbott Laboratories and began a new career, separated, divorced, and remarried (doubling the size of our family), moved back to Illinois, and put my two children through college. I wrote Fadó in my spare time!” He quips.

O’Donnell currently resides in Arlington Heights, Illinois, with his wife, Colleen, and has already begun drafting a follow-up book to Fadó.