cover image Thin Places

Thin Places

Kerri ní Dochartaigh. Milkweed, $24 (280p) ISBN 978-1-57131-195-5

In this nimble debut, Dochartaigh reflects on moving back to her native Ireland and the ways borders—constructed and natural, visible and unseen—shape life. Born in Derry in Northern Ireland during the Troubles in a divided household (her mother was Catholic, her father Protestant), the author vowed never to return after she moved “across the water” in her 20s in the mid-aughts. Yet 15 years later, Dochartaigh returned to find a nation fractured by Brexit (Derry, she writes, voted to remain). While reckoning with the unstable political landscape around her, Dochartaigh contends with another terrain: the “thin places” of refuge that she often finds in nature,where, according to Celtic mythology, heaven and earth are closer than usual. In writing that’s ethereal and elliptical, she laments Ireland’s collective “loss of connection with the natural world” and cleverly uses this “unwilding” as a warning about the threat of extinction faced by indigenous flora and fauna, and also as a lens through which to look at the toll of oppression and violence on humanity (“The echoes of the Troubles in Ireland have been, are being and will continue to be a coal-black crow that covers us with its wings”). By turns subtle and urgent, this offers a powerful and complex portrait of a land and its people. (Apr.)