cover image As You Were

As You Were

Elaine Feeney. Biblioasis, $16.95 trade paper (320p) ISBN 978-1-77196-443-2

Feeney’s brilliant debut follows an Irish woman’s struggle to accept a terminal cancer diagnosis. Sinéad Hynes, 39, a successful property developer, is married with two young boys. When first diagnosed with cancer, she refuses to tell anyone, including her husband, Alex. But when she lands in a poorly funded hospital, she is forced to contend with her new reality. Feeney skillfully tells the stories of other patients, including Margaret Rose, recovering from a stroke, and Jane, suffering from dementia. In the closed space of the ward, these three women share their secrets. Margaret Rose has a philandering husband and pregnant teenage daughter. Jane, a retired teacher, has a husband and nine children but no visitors. She tells Margaret Rose and Sinéad about her long-ago love for another woman, Ann, and about her and Ann’s tragic place in Ireland’s history of abuse of women. As Sinéad’s illness progresses, she comes to terms with her past, her illness, and her deep love for her family, which swells in poignant moments such as when Alex helps to “smuggle” her out of the hospital. Never sentimental, and full of well-crafted dialogue and rich descriptions, the story is driven forward by Sinéad’s strong narration. This powerful work perfectly balances tragedy and hope. (Oct.)