Tom Ireland’s books are Mostly Mules, a travel journal with photos by Molly Mehaffy; Birds of Sorrow: Notes from a River Junction in Northern New Mexico; Our Love Is Like A Cake, true-life romance in post-Soviet Poland; The Man Who Gave His Wife Away, an essay collection about relationships; and The Household Muse, a collaboration with Anne Valley-Fox. He was awarded a literary fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Jeffrey E. Smith award in nonfiction from The Missouri Review. Two of his essays were chosen to appear in Best American Travel Writing.

Tom Ireland
Household Muse

The Household Muse

(Tres Chicas Books, 141 pp., $16 plus shipping;
available from

The Household Muse, titled after a collection of piano pieces by Darius Milhaud, is a correspondence between two writers who live together. These short essays, written back and forth over the course of a year, are concerned with “whatever was closest on any particular day, although what was closest might be long ago or far away”: peach saplings, former loves, political mayhem, mice in the compost, refugees, a dying friend, a melodeon, a marsh hawk by the railroad tracks. Completed a few months before the coronavirus outbreak, the exchange ends with the birth of a grandson, an event that invites the two to consider the time they have left and how to make the most of it. “So yes,” writes Anne Valley Fox, “let’s bet our lives on human kindness and microbe-eating earthworms, and love each other like there’s no tomorrow.”

The Man Who Gave His Wife Away

The Man Who Gave His Wife Away

(182 pp., $15 plus shipping)

“Human relationships are the tragic necessity of human life,” wrote Willa Cather. You’re damned if you do, damned if you don’t, and equally blessed either way. Alone, you long for company; in company, you long for the solitude that was just now driving you crazy.

from the Preface

“You are in love, no?” said a passenger one night, a beautiful Lithuanian woman with a husky voice. I remember her eyes in the rearview mirror. “Be always in love, yes.”

from “Love at a Distance”

One of the great advantages of getting together with someone after the age of sixty is that forever doesn’t seem as impossibly long as it used to. With any luck, forever might just be doable.

from “The Pending Disaster”
Tom Ireland

Birds of Sorrow

(Zephyr Press, 231 pp., $12.95 paper, $21.95 hardcover plus shipping)

Copies are available from Zephyr Press and Amazon.

“A welcome book for those of us who love the  well-wrought essay.”

— Tony Hillerman

“This collection offers a refreshing account of [Ireland’s] experience of the American West . . . whose appeal is delightfully idiosyncratic and universally human.”

— Publishers Weekly

“There ought to be a name for this genre . . . [but] people who bond with ‘place’ and then write about it with philosophical comments and profound/funny/zen-like observations along the way is a bit cumbersome.”

— Pam Hanna