This article was first published in September 2021. The New Girl by Sinéad Moriarty went on to win the An Post Irish Book Award for Teen and Young Adult Book of the Year.
I’ve been writing full time now for almost 20 years and I always believe that saying ‘follow your curiosity’
In the book, three couples, one in their early 20s, one in their early 40s and one in their mid-60s, all go and see the same therapist to try to save their relationships.
In all of my books I’ve followed and researched subject matters that I’m interested in or curious about. My latest book, About Us, is about couples therapy and how relationships change over the course of your life.
In the end, all relationships are based on intimacy. Yes, sex is part of that, but so is holding hands, looking at each other, hugging and just listening and respecting each other’s feelings.
About Us explores how relationships get stale and how we need to nurture them if they are to last. It deals with all of these themes with honesty and lots of humour too!
After writing 15 adult books, I am about to launch my first children’s book, The New Girl, which is about a little Syrian refugee called Safa who ends up in Ireland and feels like she doesn’t fit in.
Her classmate, Ruby, is chosen to look after Safa and Ruby is fuming. Ruby has enough problems of her own and doesn’t want to look after the new ‘refugee kid’. But they soon realise that they are not so different after all and that they can help each other by being compassionate and kind towards each other.
For me, this book has been a passion project and a subject matter that that I really felt compelled to write about.
A few years ago, I suddenly felt really pulled towards writing for children. It happened after I saw the infamous image of the body of a little refugee child washed up on the beach in Greece. I couldn’t get the image out of my head and I thought, I have to write about this. I want my children to understand that some people’s lives are incredibly difficult. I wanted them to understand how important compassion and kindness are in life.
After writing a first draft, I contacted the Irish Refugee Council in Dublin and they put me in touch with a lovely Syrian girl called Sarra who agreed to talk to me for my research.
I drove to Enniscorthy one rainy night in November, three years ago, and called into her house. I met Sarra, her Mum and her sister Amira. Since that day, Sarra has been in my life and we have become firm friends. I feel very protective of her and proud of her.
She was smuggled through Turkey and left on a beach with a dinghy. The smugglers lied to them and said they would navigate the boat to Greece, but they abandoned them on the beach in Turkey. 50 desperate refugees climbed into a dinghy made for 12. Somehow, by some miracle, they made it to Greece safely, where after a long wait, her sisters, mother and her were sent to Ireland. Sarra sat her Leaving Cert and is now studying pharmaceutical science
The way I make sense of the world is by writing about it. I, like so many other parents out there, wanted to explain to my children what was going on. I believe this story of Safa and Ruby will help children to understand why it is so important to be open and kind, no matter what the colour of someone’s skin or their religion or background.
Writing for children has been an absolute joy. I was worried at first that I wouldn’t be able to get the tone right because I’ve spent so much time writing for adults. But I have 3 children and I have read to them from the day they were born, so I found that I knew how to tell a story that was accessible for children.
My kids, now early teens, helped edit the book and told me what worked and what was ‘boring’! They were a huge help in getting the story told.
I am really proud of The New Girl and so happy that I followed my curiosity. I’ve written a book I think children will learn from and I’ve made wonderful new friends from Syria that I may not have otherwise met.
The experience has been so positive and I have learnt a lot along the way. Most of all, that kindness and compassion can change people’s lives.
(c) Sinéad Moriarty
About The New Girl:
At school, Ruby is the odd one out. Although Denise and Clara are her friends, they are each other’s best friend and she is the ‘other’ friend. So when new girl Safa, a refugee who has just arrived in Ireland from Syria, joins the class, she is put sitting beside Ruby. Safa and Ruby realise that their lives are very different. But as they get to know each other they soon discover that they have more in common than they might think.
A timely and heart-warming story of friendship from one of Ireland’s best-loved storytellers.
‘A story about friendship, hope and courage … I loved it and couldn’t put it down!’ Christy Lefteri, The Beekeeper of Aleppo
Order your copy online here.
About Us by Sinéad Moriarty:
Three couples. One therapist’s couch …
Alice and Niall used to be lovers, best friends and parents, in that order. Now they’re no longer on the same page or even reading from the same book.
Ann thought when she and Ken retired, it would be their second spring. Instead, it feels more like an icy winter.
Orla is falling in love with boyfriend Paul, but her complicated past makes her unsure if she can ever be intimate with anyone.
Three couples find themselves telling a stranger about the most private part of their lives – their hopes, their disappointments, their awkward realisations.
Can they learn to be honest with each other? And what life-changing decisions will be made when they do?
Order your copy online here.