In parts tender, and almost entirely tragic, I found this short novella incredibly moving.
A gentle, compassionate and insightful look at origins, or sources – of identity, shame, grief, anger, despair – (and interestingly, of words themselves) and the roots that provide definition, and a past, that cannot be removed, but can evolve, with time, into something perhaps softer around the edges.
Kate, an Irish-born mother and her teenage daughter, Lavinia, (raised and admittedly coddled, by her mother, in London, England) – return to Kate’s homeland to clear out the whitewashed farmhouse that was the site of her mothers death.
The visit is fraught with emotion, as little by little, Kate re-lives and reveals to the reader (but only in small part to her daughter) a childhood crushed and fragmented by life in the “kingdom of rage” instigated by her “poisonous” mother, – a devastating outcome Kate understands, through her own damaged lens, to result from her mothers spectacular failure to manage her own private demons of shame and despair.
Escape, ( a word offering promise, never fully realized) for Kate, involved running away to England, an exile as devastating to her fragile sense of homeland and identity as it was a tenuous lifeline to something better.
Considering her damaged past, (and that of the generation preceding her) Kate’s relationship with her daughter, as the reader now experiences it, is pure, wondrous and heart-breaking.
Kate, an intelligent and articulate poet of sorts, is a wonderful character, and her penned introspections on language, shared tentatively with Lavinia, as she works through her unexpressed ruminations, are truly lovely – and some of my favorite passages in this beautiful book.
A great big thank you to the author for an ARC of this book. All thoughts presented are my own.