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Dear America Wiki
Not to be confused with So Far from Home (book).

"As we left the dock, I recalled the words my Ma spoke to me before I left. She said "The Blessed Lord never closes one gate without opening another." Clinging to her words was I as I took the first steps into my new life in America."
Mary Driscoll

"So Far from Home is the fifth installment of the Dear America film series. It was based So Far from Home by Barry Denenberg. The film aired on October 14, 1999 on HBO. Laura Bertram and Steven McCarthy starred as Mary Driscoll and Sean Riordan.

Leaving behind Ireland, Mary makes her way to America with her friend Sean. She reunites with her aunt Nora in Lowell, where she begins working at a mill.


In 1847, Mary Driscoll (Laura Bertram) comes to America while the Great Famine continues to devastate her home in Ireland. Her friend Sean Riordan (Steven McCarthy) offers her a place to stay at his uncle's, Patrick Quinn (Shaun Austin Olsen), tavern. She declines, deciding to wait for her aunt. Sean returns for her later that night. After putting a notice in the newspaper, she receives a letter from her aunt who never got a letter telling her which ship Mary was on.

Sean escorts Mary to Aunt Nora's (Lynne Griffin) home in Lowell, Massachusetts. The next day, Mary goes to work at the mill. A kind Yankee girl, Annie Clark (Gema Zamprogna) is tasked with training her. After work, Sean informs Mary that he is staying in Lowell since he has found a job working on the canal. She is happy about the news and insists that he stay at Aunt Nora's house. Some days later, Sean returns home with a cut on his forehead. A Yankee boy threw a stone at him. Sean wants to get payback, but Mary begs him to keep quiet.

Mary continues working hard in hopes of earning enough money for her parents' passage. She refuses to attend Annie's labor meeting since it could jeopardize her job. However, she decides to attend after Clarissa Burroughs (Francesca Scorsone) is almost injured at work. Sean tries to convince her not to go, when a group of Yankee boys arrive. Some Irish boys come to his rescue, hitting one of the Yankees with a rock. Sean is accused of throwing the rock and sent to jail. The next day, Aunt Nora informs Mary of parents' deaths, which devastates her.

Mr. Quinn comes to help his nephew, though he does not have enough money for Sean's bail. Mary and Aunt Nora chip in their own savings, which is just enough for his bail and a lawyer. At trial, each boy points to Sean when the prosecutor asks them who threw the rock. Mary is called to the stand and describes the incident exactly as it happened, including about her being on her way to a labor meeting. The judge declares Sean not guilty. Mr. Fowler (Victor Ertmanis) later fires Mary, having heard her testimony. The next day, Sean heads out west.

Cast and characters[]

Crew and credits[]

  • Directed by: Don McCutcheon
  • Teleplay by: Carl Binder
  • Adapted from the book: "So Far from Home" written by Barry Denenberg
  • Based on: the Scholastic book series "Dear America" created by Jean Feiwel
  • Executive producer: Deborah Forte
  • Co-executive producers: Bill Siegler, Martha Atwater
  • Editor: Richard Wells
  • Production designer: Ian Brock
  • Director of photography: Barry Bergthorson
  • Line producer: Lena Cordina
  • Executive in charge: Christie Dreyfuss
  • Music by: Jack Lenz and Douglas John Cameron
  • Story editor: Rhonda Jayne Olson
  • Production manager: Lena Cordina
  • 1st assistant director: John Pace
  • Location manager: Karen Perez
  • Art director: Roderik Mayne
  • 1st assistant art director: Theresa Tindall
  • 2nd assistant director: Joanne Tickle
  • Production coordinator: David Hardy
  • Script supervisor: Donna Gardon
  • Set decorator: Elizabeth Calderhead
  • Costume designer: Joyce Schure
  • Property master: Alan Doucette
  • Make-up: Leslie Dumbleton
  • Hairstylist: Etheline Joseph
  • Camera operator: Doug Lawrence
  • Sound recordist: Bryan Day
  • Re-recording engineer: Steve Foster
  • Gaffer: Bob Davidson
  • Key grip: Darren Boyce
  • 1st assistant camera: Lori Longstaff
  • Post production supervisor: Lynda McKenzie
  • Assistant editor: Douglas Crawford
  • Construction coordinator: Bill White
  • Transport coordinator: J. Skavinsky
  • Stunt coordinator: Bryan Renfro
  • Special effects by: Brock Jolliffe
  • Casting: Susan Forrest and Sharon Forrest
  • Production accountant: Kelly Decooman
  • Scholastic financial executive: Diane Vilagi
  • Production associate: Tessa Abdull
  • Production services provided by: Protocol Entertainment Inc.
  • Special thanks to: Dome Audio Video & Effects, The Lab

Home media[]


"So Far from Home" on VHS

"So Far from Home" was released on home video sometime in 1999.[2] The episode is now available for purchase on certain streaming services.

Back of tape description:
"With the potato famine devastating her homeland in Ireland, Mary Driscoll must leave her parents to seek out a better life in America. Mary finds work in a mill, where working conditions are dreadful. Although her friends encourage her to join the new labor union, Mary hesitates to speak out for fear of losing her job. When her dear friend, Sean, is falsely accused of murder, Mary must decide if she is ready to face her fears and sacrifice everything to save him."

Differences from book[]

  • Some major and minor characters are left out of the film, including Kate Driscoll, Laura Austin, Alice O'Donnell, Mr. and Mrs. O'Donnell, the Corcoran family, Eunice Currier, and Ruth Shattuck.
  • The film begins on June 21, 1847, skipping the three weeks Mary was still in Ireland and the two month voyage.
  • Mary refuses Sean's offer to stay at his uncle's tavern at first, unlike in the book where she accepted the offer readily.
  • Sean escorts Mary to Lowell and later decides to stay there. In the book, they part ways in Boston.
  • Clarissa Burroughs' hair gets stuck in her machine, but Mr. Fowler cuts it in time. Whereas she dies from her injuries in the book.
  • The circumstances of Sean being charged with accessory to murder are changed in the film. A group of boys attack him and later accuse him of throwing a rock at their friend. In the book, Sean just happens to be near a riot, in which some boys are killed.
  • In the film, Sean goes to trial, while in the book's epilogue Sean runs away as soon as Mary pays his bail.
  • Annie Clark's character is changed slightly. She warms to Mary much faster and advocates for labor rights.
  • There are two girls who are often around Annie, though not explicitly stated, they could have been Laura and Ruth.

Behind the scenes[]



From the Dear America website (August 2000)



See also[]

External links[]