Cacophony of Bone
A Kirkus Reviews “Most Anticipated Book of the Fall 2023”
From the acclaimed author of Thin Places, a luminous day book about an unexpected year and finding home.
Two days after the winter solstice in 2019, Kerri and her partner moved to a remote cottage in the heart of Ireland. They were looking for a home, somewhere to settle into a stable life. Then the pandemic arrived and their secluded abode became a place of enforced isolation. What was meant to be the beginning of an enriching new chapter was instead marked by uncertainty and fear. The seasons still passed, the swallows returned, the rhythms of the natural world went on, but in many ways 2020 was unlike any year we had seen before. And for Kerri there would be one more change: a baby, longed for but utterly, beautifully unexpected.
Intensely lyrical, fragmentary in subject and form, Cacophony of Bone is an ode to a year, a place, and a love that transformed a life. When the pandemic came, time seemed to shapeshift; in Kerri’s elegant prose, we can trace its quickening, its slowing. She maps the circle of a year—a journey from one place to another, field notes of a life—from one winter to the next, telling of a changed life in a changed world, as well as all that stays the same. All that keeps on living and breathing, nesting and dying. This is a book for the reader who wants to slow down, guided by a voice that is utterly singular, “rich and strange,” (Robert Macfarlane). A book about home—the deepening of family, the connections that sustain us.
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Praise and Prizes
“"The author’s day-book follow-up to her acclaimed debut, Thin Places . [. . .]ní Dochartaigh’s observations are lyrical and relatable. [. . .] A raw, honest, and poetic memoir.”
“Raw, visionary, lucid, and mystical, Cacophony of Bone speaks of the connection between all things, and the magic that can be found in everyday life.”
“Kerri ní Dochartaigh’s Cacophony of Bone is an arrestingly poetic, genre-bending meditation on time and place. If the pandemic made one thing clear, it’s that time is shimmering and slippery, a shapeshifter. It moves the way Kerri ní Dochartaigh’s brilliant mind moves, like a fast, deep river. I am as thrilled by the artistry of her sentences as I am by the wisdom they carry in their current. Cacophony of Bone will live on my bookshelf beside Thin Places, one of my favorite books of the past several years. I know I’ll reach for them both again and again.
“A hypnotic book, at once bare and dense with the stuff of life: bolted lettuce, a cup of tea gifted at the end of a rainy day, always the bright, still world returning. At its heart there sits a human creature, a woman writer wrestling her awareness to attention again and again. A sacred book, for turning outward and inward at the same time.”
“In a time of isolation, Kerri ní Dochartaigh made a place of belonging. In a season of sickness, she became a vessel for unlooked-for life. In a year of burgeoning fear and rising fury, she tilled her grief into dark soil and brought forth a blooming garden. Kerri ní Dochartaigh is nothing less than an alchemist, and Cacophony of Bone is a wondrous book.”
“Kerri’s voice is utterly her own, rich and strange. I’ve folded down the corners of many pages, marking sentences and moments that glitter out at me. Wow.”
“Kerri ní Dochartaigh’s luminous first book was called Thin Places; in Cacophony of Bone she makes a study of the thickening that can happen as we dwell, garden, survive, and root. Mapping one extraordinary year of pandemic enclosure—from January to solstice—she charts moonlight, swim, seedpod, and sprouting, also giving us a record of how the steadiness of a writing practice can become a binding, can scaffold us into more steadiness in our own lives. For those that wonder what it might be like to make a craft of bearing witness, ní Dochartaigh’s book is a reminder to live with gratitude and curiosity, and to face each day with heart and notebook open.”
“Kerri ní Dochartaigh is a singular writer, and Cacophony of Bone is a stunning work that bristles with light. There isn’t a sentence in this marvelous daybook that doesn’t awaken in the reader a deeper sense of wonder, reverence, and—despite all—belonging.”
“Reading Kerri ní Dochartaigh’s Cacophony of Bone is like stepping inside the place where poetry comes from. In these pages objects, time, form, memory, grief, politics, sensuality, and change meet. It’s a conversation, a prayer, an address, and an answer. I found myself talking with her as I read.”
“Powerful, unflinching . . . Part hymn to nature, part memoir.”
“Dochartaigh takes great solace in nature, and much of the book is a meditation on the beautiful landscapes and flora and fauna that surround her . . . Passionate, moving and beautifully written.”
“In poems and essays, Ni Dochartaigh writes in exquisite detail of the seasons, beginning with the 'ghost-trace, moon-white' and silent winter that kicks off a new phase of life.”
“Kerri ní Dochartaigh (Thin Places, 2022) takes readers on a yearlong journey through the unpredictable and unprecedented year of 2020. [. . .] Ní Dochartaigh’s reflections during this time are powerful and poignant, examining themes of motherhood, death, and time. As she grapples with depression, sobriety, and fertility, ní Dochartaigh parallels the social turbulence and pandemic chaos with the majesty of nature. Unyielding storms, precious birds, and beautifulplants offer a sense of peace to a broken world. Readers are reminded to “remember the light,” with notes of gratitude and optimism weaved throughout, along with many nods to the healing power of literature. Personal, relatable, and restorative, Cacophony of Bone voices a crucial plea to have faith in humanity.”