Portland author Lisa Carey’s new novel, “The Stolen Child,” is about the people and spirits who live on a remote Irish island and the magical and mysterious things that happen to them. It’s also a book about motherhood, in all its forms.

“When I was finishing it and reading it over with an editor, I realized it has so many themes of motherhood that I have been experiencing in the 10 years since I have been a mother, the joy and wonder as well as the isolation and the feeling that things are going on that you cannot catch up with,” Carey said.

“The Stolen Child,” by Portland writer Lisa Carey, will be released by Simon & Schuster on Feb. 7 in paperback. $15.99 Photo by Patricia Walsh

Like the fictional St. Brigid’s Island where the story is set, motherhood can feel like a paradise one moment, a prison the next.

“The Stolen Child” is Carey’s fifth book, and like the others it involves magical realism and myths. In this book, Irish fairies, who are dark, powerful and vengeful, are said to have possessed a woman named Emer, taken her to the underworld and scarred her for life. Her son, Niall, also exhibits the traits of a human possessed.

Carey got the idea after watching a documentary movie about the Inishark, an island off the coast of Ireland that was home to an isolated community of fishermen and their families. The island is uninhabited now, because the population couldn’t sustain itself. It’s remote and lacks a safe harbor, making winter nearly impossible for transporting supplies and providing emergency services. The Irish government resettled its residents to the mainland in 1960. The real-life story was perfect fodder for one of Carey’s novels.

“It was calling to me. I felt like I had to do it,” she said. “I knew I could write something really intense and frightening about that kind of community and what might happen if you are cut off completely from the world.”

Carey, 46, and her husband moved to Portland from Massachusetts in 2004. They came here “to afford a life where I could stay home with my son,” she said. “When I became mother, I intended to take time off work. One year turned into four, and when I got back to writing I felt like a bit of a different person in some way. I had always written about motherhood, but never done it as a mother.”

As she wrote, the up-and-down emotions associated with motherhood crept into her work and surfaced in the characters she created.

Carey has long been fascinated with Ireland. She grew up in an Irish family in Brookline, Massachusetts, and lived there for five years. She returns to Ireland regularly and has used Ireland as a setting for previous books, as well.

She published her first novel, “The Mermaids Singing,” in 1998. Her other titles are “In the Country of the Young,” “Love in the Asylum” and “Every Visible Thing.” The latter won a Lambda Literary Award for Fiction, and “Love in the Asylum” won a Massachusetts Book Award.

Carey has always felt comfortable with magical realism, which involves merging fantasy or magical elements with realism. Growing up, Carey read a lot of books by Madeleine L’Engle, a Newbery Medal and National Book Award-winning novelist, and Roald Dahl, author of “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” and “James and Giant Peach,” among others.

“I was always drawn to magical realism as a child, fantasy moreso than science fiction. I’m really fascinated by drawing myths and stories into my books,” she said.

HarperCollins published “The Stolen Child” last week. Carey began her promotional tour at Longfellow Books in Portland and has several readings scheduled across New England in February, including Feb. 18 at her hometown Brookline Booksmith, where she worked when she was younger.

She’s working on a young adult novel, a first for her, and she’s collaborating with her son on a chapter book for kids.

“I’m excited to be writing again,” she said.

Staff Writer Bob Keyes can be contacted at 791-6457 or at:

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