4.5 out of 5 stars

A copy of this was provided free of charge from the publisher in return for an honest review.

Growing in up in Northern Ireland was tough in the time of the Troubles for all sorts of people. For Kerri ní Dochartaigh’s it was even harder. One parent was Protestant and the other Catholic and the area that they lived was part of a Protestant estate. Not fitting in with any of the divided communities really didn’t help, but she was witness to all sorts of traumatic events including witnessing the murder of a soldier as a small child, It got much harder to live there after her home was firebombed, but it was a place that felt that you could never escape from.

Moving to a new area of Ireland gave her a glimpse of what could be possible in her life, no one cared what her nominated religion was nor of her background. But still, the troubles impinged on her life; a friend was taken only an hour after seeing his and found later in a shallow grave. She somehow made it through school and university though and decided that Ireland was not for her anymore and headed to the UK. It was here that all the trauma of the past slowly caught up with her. She started drinking heavily, sunk into depression and gave up any hope that things might get better. She walked to the very edge of the abyss and waited her time.

There are places that speak of that unwritten language of letting go, of giving in, of being held like a hand in silent universal prayer

As heavy as this emotional baggage was there were points in her life that started the healing process long before she knows there was anything that could be fixed. Staying at Treshnish on the Isle of Mull, there was a day when the harr, a dense sea fog, had lifted and she was swimming in the dark waters in the intense blackness and silence of the place held her safe. She would sob beneath oak trees, her tears wetting the ground, the roots absorbing her sorrows. She would gather objects like a magpie, piling them up on her windowsills as fragments of memories of places and time spent alone. Her flatmate found her weeping uncontrollably under the stairs. She helped her to bed and then waited until she finally slept. Then came the moment on a beach in January when she felt held in a place other than this world; she had found a thin place. It was time to return to Ireland

Places only hold us close enough that we can finally see ourselves reflected back

At times this is a really hard book to read. Ní Dochartaigh has been through a lot in her life and she tells us about it in a way that is open, honest and unflinching in its intensity. She knows that her life story may well have been very different if she had made other choices. Thankfully she didn’t and this is why we have this book. She draws energy deeply from being in the wild outdoors, feeling the power of wind and water and understanding that we are mere moments in geological time. What she draws from the natural world is mirrored in her prose, which particularly in the second half of the book is just beautiful. This book might not be for everyone, but it comes highly recommended from me.

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