A Derry writer’s powerful, unflinching account of her war-torn childhood and her quest for peace is part hymn to nature, part Troubles memoir
The “thin places” that give this book its title exist in Irish mythology as thresholds or portals to the other side; sites where the veil between this world and the next is most porous. Known to locals through oral stories passed down the generations, they are vestiges of an older, stranger Ireland, their resonance still palpable, Kerri ní Dochartaigh suggests, to those attuned to their otherness. “They are places that make us feel something larger than ourselves,” she writes, “as though we are held in a place between worlds, beyond experience.”
Her hybrid book attempts to hold the reader in place between two contrasting genres: nature writing and Troubles memoir. It is an often precarious balancing act, the two strands, one wondrous and elemental, the other violent and unsettling, sustained by the vividly descriptive prose. The journey begins in the windswept northerly reaches of Donegal, where she names the small wild things she sees around her in Irish – leamhan (moth); dreoilín (wren); crotach (curlew). That very act is, as it turns out, a way of grounding herself in history and place, of asserting her sense of belonging to an older culture, not just pre-colonial, but pre-Christian.