4 out of 5 stars
This is not a comfortable read by any means. Gleeson has had a tough life, having had to have hip replacements, treatment for Leukaemia and what seems like reading this a raft of other ailments. On top of that with she and other women are on the receiving end of the strong catholic patriarchy in modern-day Ireland. It is a culture that sees women purely for their baby-carrying duties and still has to ‘cleanse’ them after they have given birth as they think it is unclean.
This is a memoir of suffering, but also of life. Gleeson has never been a person to dwell on the life that she has been gifted, rather she sees it as a way of understanding more about herself and more importantly helping and giving hope to other women in similar positions with long term and chronic illnesses. It is not all about her though, there is an essay on her Aunt Terry whose mind is beginning to fade away from the terrible disease that is Alzheimer’s and the story of Beryl Markham who flew across the Atlantic from East to West and took a sandwich and a flask of tea.
She is spirited enough to see through all of this, persuading relatives who are against abortion to change their mind and vote for it, educating her children that these things are about choices that you make about your body and these things should not be dictated by someone who has no interest in your welfare. She can be quite graphic in her description of medical treatments and also critical of some of the doctors that she has been treated by, who have shown very little empathy about her various conditions. This lyrical and book is her way of shining a light on the manifestly unfair system in her home and should be essential reading for everyone who wishes to gain an insight into improving the ways of treating women in particular.