Reading: Mother America by Nuala Ní Chonchúir

Well, before Christmas I dropped a few hints to my husband, such as pointing at the 25th square on the calendar and screaming, ‘Mother America by Nuala Ní Chonchúir!’, and it came. Big love to the Hub.

If you don’t have a copy yet, it’s here. And here.

So, it’s Boxing Day and I’m not going to write a proper review; the book’s relaxed me, I’d rather mooch down under my duvet with my sleeping baby and my glass of mead, and carry on reading. But it deserves a few words…

It’s a collection of short stories, which vary in both history and geography but all delve into the hearts of families, finding the inevitable fault lines and giving them a good shake until the people fall apart. The main themes are mothers and that all-powerful mother-child bond that’s only too easy to take for granted or otherwise arse up. Love, loneliness, guilt, warmth — it’s all there for any child who’s ever missed or upset their mother, or mothers who have struggled to birth or raise their children. Common elements include love, loss, miscarriage, death, and infidelity; lots of humanity, some diversity… but not so much by way of giggles. It’s an intense read, but well crafted enough to make it easy, and Ní Chonchúir’s prose is sharp to the ear and begs to be read aloud to any passing family members. (Check out the reading on the author website.) It’s a painful, delicious book.

Best thing I’ve read in 2012.

If you want a more detailed review, there’s this on Bookmunch, by Valerie O’Riordan, who describes Ní Chonchúir as ‘nothing if not linguistically sure-footed’, which is apt. The review provides some interesting references and background info, e.g. The Egg Pyramid was about Mexican painter Frida Kahlo, while Cri de Coeur referred to the suicides of Sylvia Plath and Assia Wevill. The reviewer assesses whether the stories were full enough on their own, without any background knowledge — I have to say, I didn’t know about Kahlo or Wevill and yet still managed to appreciate the stories.


Worth reading? Yes. *Love*.

Share toy? Yes, this will see you right for birthdays and book clubs.

OK to show your mother? Yes, provided she can read and you’ve not just abandoned her in New York…

You could drop in and deliver it by hand.


    • tu says:

      Hi Nuala, thanks for dropping in here. You really put the icing on Christmas this year, after months of hard work and little spare time, to curl up with the baby, a glass of mead, and your book was absolute magic. I loved Scullion, William made me cry, but my favourite’s still Moongazer.

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