Both a celebration of the natural world and a memoir of one family’s experience during the Troubles, Thin Places is a gorgeous braid of “two strands, one wondrous and elemental, the other violent and unsettling, sustained by vividly descriptive prose” (The Guardian).
Kerri ní Dochartaigh was born in Derry, on the border of the North and South of Ireland, at the very height of the Troubles. She was brought up on a council estate on the wrong side of town—although for her family, and many others, there was no right side. One parent was Catholic, the other was Protestant. In the space of one year, they were forced out of two homes. When she was eleven, a homemade bomb was thrown through her bedroom window. Terror was in the very fabric of the city, and for families like ní Dochartaigh’s, the ones who fell between the cracks of identity, it seemed there was no escape.
In Thin Places, a luminous blend of memoir, history, and nature writing, ní Dochartaigh explores how nature kept her sane and helped her heal, how violence and poverty are never more than a stone’s throw from beauty and hope, and how we are, once again, allowing our borders to become hard and terror to creep back in. Ní Dochartaigh asks us to reclaim our landscape through language and study, and remember that the land we fight over is much more than lines on a map. It will always be ours, but—at the same time—it never really was.
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Praise and Prizes
“A remarkable piece of writing. I don’t think I’ve ever read a book as open-hearted as this. It resists easy pieties of nature as a healing force, but nevertheless charts a recovery which could never have been achieved without landscape, wild creatures and ‘thin places.’ It is also flocked with luminous details (moths, birds, feathers, skulls, moving water). 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.”
“A beautiful and harrowing book about trauma, the potential to heal and the subtle magic of the wild. Kerri ní Dochartaigh offers us a fragile kind of redemption, full of truth and solace.”
“Part hymn to nature, part Troubles memoir . . . the two strands, one wondrous and elemental, the other violent and unsettling, sustained by the vividly descriptive prose. . . . Unflinching in its intensity . . . Thin Places is at heart a survivor’s story located in the real and brutally Darwinian world of lived experience.”
“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, this is a remarkable account of trauma and ways to acknowledge and overcome it.”
“Acutely personal . . . Wonderfully evocative . . . This heartfelt memoir, with its message on the saving grace of nature, may speak to an even wider audience than it first imagined.”
“A powerful, bracing memoir that asks what happens when a child grows up in a city that isn’t safe . . . This is a book that will make you see the world differently.”
“Heady, bright and difficult to pin down. It is also redemptive. The Irish word for hope, we are told, is dòchas or dòigh, which holds, within its roots, glimmers of dóighiúil, the word for giving. Ní Dochartaigh takes that hope and gives it to us all.”
“What was Kerri ní Dochartaigh’s burden as a child—to exist in ‘the gaps between’ the Catholic and Protestant communities in Northern Ireland—has become her gift as a writer. She is sensitive to the legacies of loss and trauma and highly attuned to the gifts of the natural world and the possibilities of place. This is a special, beautiful, many-faceted book.”
“An eloquent, moving work of politics, geography and the self. Full of wisdom and deeply engaging.”
“It seems as if everything about life is contained within the covers of this astonishing book: politics, history, nature, language and of course, love. A profound and moving work of art. This is a really special book—certainly, I’ve never read one quite like it.”