Pondering family bonds

Staying In

Book review
Bríd Conroy

Blood is thicker than water. We all know that one. We also know that blood and water have the capacity to run in a straight line, but, like family relations, they rarely do. Two astounding books this week take us on a journey of exploration into family relations.
‘The Home Scar’, by Kathleen McMahon, just recently published by Penguin, is a beautiful book set in the wilds of Connemara.
The novel tells the story of Cassie and Christo, half brother and sister, who live now as adults in Mexico and Cambridge, respectively. Christo spots a news item that the remains of an ancient forest on a beach in Connemara have been discovered. This was the place of pivotal events in their childhood before their mother died, and they both decide almost on a whim to go to Ireland and find this forest. What they hadn’t banked on, however, was the place’s power to bring all that was buried within them to the surface along with the forest.
It is a beautiful story at many levels. Christo and Cassie’s story is heartbreaking and emotional and thoroughly engaging at all times. We care deeply as readers about them and hold them throughout the reading. Yet, there is another beauty that enfolds; the landscape and how we are silently tied to it, sometimes unbeknownst to ourselves.
McMahon describes her characters so gently and empathically and relates their story with a charming quirkiness. Cassie feels like a lonely alien some days and others a covert spy. Eduardo, her boyfriend, is meticulous (and meticulously opened up to us) in all his searches for perfection, yet all the while acknowledges beauty in the imperfection.
‘My Soul Twin’, by Nino Haratischvili, published by Scribe Publications is a translation from Georgian by Charlotte Collins. Haratischvili’s earlier, award-winning novel, ‘The Eighth Life’ was an epic read I undertook during Covid.
Her latest book is a darker tale of two families whose paths cross over two generations in ways the characters could never have predicted. Life continued after scandal tore relations apart, but the return of a family member brings buried secrets and forbidden love to the surface once again.
This beautifully written also has an epic feel to it. Many events and time zones unfold. An end point is promised to us throughout the story, bringing an irresistible intensity and pace. We don’t understand the characters at all times, and might not agree necessarily with their decisions, but we are rooting for them while also being forced to challenge our own prejudices and views of the world.
Two great reads for bookworms this week, to welcome in the spring.

Bríd Conroy and her husband Neil Paul run Tertulia  – A Bookshop Like No Other at The Quay, Westport.