At the East Meadow Public Library, Colm Tóibín’s visit was meant for ‘Long Island’


Lovers of books, Long Island and Irish heritage recently had a chance to take part in a fantastic “Meet the Author” event at the East Meadow Public Library.

Colm Tóibín, an Irish author, who has published eleven novels, joined the East Meadow community on May 18 for a discussion about the recently published “Long Island.” The book is a sequel to his beloved novel, “Brooklyn,” released in 2009. It was made into a major motion picture in 2015, and received three Academy Award nominations.

Janine Walsh, head of reader services at the library, said the library’s former public relations chair, Jude Schanzer, connected with Carol Hoenig and Peggy Zieran of On The Road Book Events. They’re the former owners of Turn of the Corkscrew, Books & Wine, an independent book store that closed in Rockville Centre in 2018.

On The Road Book Events offers offsite book events and author signings, working with a variety of venues, including libraries all across Long Island. They helped set up Tóibín’s visit to East Meadow.

“We knew he was going to be popular,” Walsh said of Tóibín’s visit. “He’s a fairly well respected author, and he’s written a lot of great books. We expected a decent sized crowd, and then Oprah picked him as her read, and overnight we went from 35 people registered to 150 people registered.”

The auditorium at the East Meadow library sits 200 people, and it was a packed house during Tóibín’s event. Both “Brooklyn,” and his most recent release, resonate close to home for many who live on Long Island, especially if they have Irish roots. 

In “Brooklyn,” Eilis Lacey, an Irish girl in her early 20s from Enniscorthy — the same town Tóibín grew up in — moves to the United States in the 1950s, where she settles in Brooklyn. Plagued by homesickness, she eventually meets a young Italian-American man, whom she falls in love with. She finds herself then struggling to choose the new life she loves in America, or her old life back home in Ireland.

Tóibín, throughout his hour-long discussion with the audience, offered bits of wisdom from an author standpoint, and shared with attendees what the writing process was like for “Long Island” — which continues Eilic Lacey’s story in Lindenhurst, 20 years later.

“I never thought of writing a sequel,” Tóibín said, “because if you’re writing a novel, you should be really careful to make sure that that’s enough.”

Tóibín read excerpts from “Long Island,” including a few pages from the beginning of the novel, which sets up the trajectory for the rest of the plot. He also read a few pages, written from the perspective of a secondary character, that connects readers back to the first book.

Tóibín maintains homes in both Dublin and New York, and discussed what it’s like as someone who’s Irish, to write speech for American characters, versus Irish characters.

In reference to an Irish subject who speaks to Eilis during the book’s first few pages, Tóibín said, “It has to be Irish, because if it’s not Irish, I have no ear for exactly how he’d speak.”

In reference to the Italian-Americans throughout the books, Tóibín said he kept their dialogue “flat and plain.”

“You’ve got to be very careful,” he said. “It’s really hard not to make one mistake that everyone will go on about.”

Tóibín’s discussion was kept lively and humorous throughout, and at the end, he was open to hearing questions from audience members. He was asked by some about the audio book that accompanied “Long Island,” how he chose the titles of his novels, and perhaps most pressingly, how he settled on Lindenhurst being the town he chose for a setting in the novel.

He said there were plenty of places on Long Island that he’d visited where there may have been more of an Irish base in the 1950s, but he wanted the setting of “Long Island” to be a bit more isolated. He would travel out to the island a few days a week, he said, and visit different towns.

“I had a book of photographs on Long Island from all the years, but what I was looking for was — there had to be no one Irish nearby,” he  explained. “I thought it was too easy to give (Eilis) homesickness, to give her nostalgia for Ireland. The name Lindenhurst, for me, has no connotation with Ireland or Irish America, or even certainly not with the Italians.”

“Long Island” was released on May 7, and has received critical acclaim. A reviewer from The Guardian said “the sequel to Brooklyn is a master class in subtlety and intelligence.”

Copies of both “Long Island,” “Brooklyn,” and some of Tóibín’s other works, were available for sale at the event, and afterwards, attendees could have them signed.

The East Meadow Public Library has a slew of summer programming scheduled throughout the next few months, including an adult summer reading program. For more, visit

And to learn more about On The Road Book Events, visit