Constellations: Reflections from Life

Sinéad Gleeson. Mariner, $15.99 trade paper (256p) ISBN 978-0-358-21303-1
This stirring collection of personal essays from Irish radio broadcaster Gleeson effortlessly renders pain, both physical and emotional, into prose. Her teenage struggle with chronic arthritis takes place in hospitals, where she undergoes multiple hip surgeries, but also against the backdrop of her Catholic upbringing. On a school trip to Lourdes, a site traditionally ascribed miraculous healing properties, her faith is shaken when she discovers “nothing felt different.” Her “troubled orthopaedic history” foreshadowed the leukemia that arrived decades later, “an odd osseous connection,” and both complicated pregnancy years after that. “I am an accumulation of all of those sleepless nights and hospital days,” she writes, “of the raw keel of boredom and self-consciousness illness is.” She draws in references to music, literature, and visual art—she feels a deep connection to Frida Kahlo, whose “compromised body conspired against her, denying her not just health but the chance of motherhood”—and eloquently explores how “the sick body has its own narrative impulse.” While “in illness it is hard to find the right words,” Gleeson’s strong work shows it is worth the effort to search for them. Agent: Melanie Jackson, Melanie Jackson Agency. (Mar.)
Reviewed on : 11/07/2019
Release date: 03/01/2020
Genre: Nonfiction
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