The Shining Fragments

When Joseph lay down, he gave in to the silence that replaced the ringing in his head. The nun sat on a chair beside his bed. She was a bird on the ship’s rail and her eye was a perfect circle. She was a granite angel in St. Patrick’s churchyard. She might have had wings. She was the moon’s face drifting across the blanket of night, watching over him.

Tales about orphans left to find their way in the New World are many, but few are as engaging as this story.” – Historical Novel Society (Editors’ Choice)

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The Shining Fragments Robin Blackburn-McBride

Robin Blackburn McBride reads from The Shining Fragments

The Shining Fragments is a family saga about the Irish in Canada that explores the ramifications of abandonment, obsession, love, memory, and visionary power.

Spanning the years 1882-1904, it follows Joseph Conlon from his early childhood in Ulster to his experiences of youth and adulthood as an immigrant. Left behind as a small boy on a Toronto train-station platform like so much forgotten luggage, Joseph grows up in a city bleak with bigotry. He discovers that he has artistic talent and becomes a designer of stained-glass windows.

He is haunted by the spirit of his unborn sister, Annie, and the powerful and often conflicting influences of the women in his life.

Here is a convincing drama of an Irish boy who, after being abandoned in Union Station, seeks to make himself a life. What appealed to me is that the story is uniquely set in a well-researched, turn-of-the-century Toronto. The struggling characters come from all classes and, most important, their dramatic interactions are told with a gripping, compassionate power.

—Wayson Choy, Order of Canada, novelist, memoirist, short-story writer


“An extremely well researched publication of historical fiction, this book effectively articulates the composite experiences of numerous Irish immigrants coming to Canada toward the end of the 19th century. Comparing the experiences of these immigrants to the experiences of more recent or contemporary immigrants allows for a critical assessment of changing attitudes towards immigrants and their treatment by Canadian society.”
—Angelo Bolotta, M.Ed., Educational Consultant

For Senior High School Educators:

Find a comprehensive Teacher’s Resource package for The Shining Fragments below.

Teacher’s Resource (PDF)

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Read about Robin

Interview with Louise H Reid


Delighted and also moved to discover a two-page feature on my novel, The Shining Fragments, in the current edition of Celtic Canada Thanks to Eleanor Reynolds and her team for making this happen.