Beyond the Western Sea: The Escape from Home, by Avi, is the first book in a series about two homeless children named Maura and Patrick O’Connell trying to find their way from Ireland to America. On the way they bump into a runaway from home named Laurence Kirkle. All three of them are trying to get to America but have obstacles in the way of their destination.
When Maura, Patrick, and their mother were driven out of their home in Ireland, they got a letter from their father who was in America. They were informed that their father had become rich, and he wished that they followed him. Enclosed in the letter were three tickets – one for each of the O’Connell family.
When it came time to go, their mother refused. She stayed behind while Maura and Patrick left for London, and from there, America. Unfortunately for Maura and Patrick, a boy named Ralph Toggs deceived them, and ripped up the passes to the hotel where they were supposed to stay. Ralph guided them to a rundown inn and dumped them there, where they befriended a man named Mr. Drabble who helped Maura and Patrick around the strange town of Liverpool.
While this was happening, a young boy named Laurence Kirkle was in a fight with his elder sibling Albert and his father Lord Kirkle. It ended in Laurence getting beaten, and Laurence insisted he was going to run away to America. Of course, nobody believed him. When he stole a thousand pounds from his father and suddenly disappeared, though, Lord Kirkle sent for Mr. Pickler, a detective, to find Laurence and bring him back.
However, Albert did not want him to come back. He sent for Mr. Clemspool to make sure that Laurence did get on the boat to America, insuring that he never came back. On the way Laurence was robbed by Mr. Grout, Mr. Clemspool’s partner. Mr. Clemspool met Laurence on the train to get to Liverpool and befriended Laurence. He brought him to a hotel and made him feel like he did before: the pampered son of a lord. Then Mr. Clemspool announced that Laurence was sick, and he called for a doctor. The doctor prescribed a strange medicine, and Mr. Clemspool took it, left the room and informed Laurence that he would be back to give him the medicine in only a moment. When he is gone too long, Laurence took a peek through the keyhole to see what is going on. Laurence found out that Mr. Clemspool knew he was from a wealthy family, and that he was being held prisoner. He escaped that night by climbing down the curtain from the window.
He was found by Patrick, as they were both trying to find their way around in the heavy fog. They were pulled onto a ship called the Charity, a chapel ship, much to Patrick’s dismay (he was Catholic). After staying there some time, Patrick promised Laurence the extra ticket that had been for his mother. When he told his sister Maura that he offered the ticket to somebody else, she informed him that she had already given the extra ticket to the man who had helped them so much – Mr. Drabble!
When Patrick told his friend Laurence that they could not give him a ticket, they both agree to stow him away on the ship. Laurence gets the help of a friend in the city, Fred, who was Ralph’s rival, to sneak him on board the same ship Patrick, Maura, and Mr. Drabble were to board. Fred got him on the ship and stuffed him into a crate, where Laurence was left to wait for Patrick to get him out.
As you can see, it is as good a cliffhanger as any to stop a book. I thought this book was well written and had a good complex storyline, but was very confusing when it swapped back and forth between seven different stories. The theme of trying to overcome the obstacles in their path was repeated throughout the book. I would recommend this book to others who are not easily confused.