I came across this novel via The Irish Times online. The synopsis had me hooked and after browsing the author’s website and watching a TV3 interview with her, I went straight out and bought the book within an hour. Most unlike me, as I have a massive To-Be-Read pile!
Afric Lynch is devastated to learn, during her routine ultrasound, that her unborn baby has major complications and is “incompatible with life”. Her husband is away on business and she must digest the awful news alone, afraid and heartbroken. As the laws in Ireland forbid terminations, she is forced to travel to Liverpool to enable her to deliver her child at 24 weeks. Choosing to do this alone, the trauma of such a trip is intense and the reader is along for the journey. Afric talks to her baby all through the novel and her fears and sorrows are narrated with tinges of sadness and uncertainty. The topical decision to travel to the UK for the early birth is one that has been discussed plenty in the media recently as the country tried to imagine how difficult it must be for a woman to carry a baby to full term, knowing the devastation ahead. Try to imagine the idea of people, unaware of your unborn’s illness, asking you are you ready for the birth, are you excited, how many more weeks left and other well-meaning nuggets of endearment being uttered at random moments. Try to see your reaction to these moments. Could you cope with the questions afterwards? What did you have? When did you have it? Where is the baby now? Now try to visualise that moment when you realise your baby cannot live outside the womb and all your hopes and dreams for this little person are now shattered…..
” I sat there, upright on the examination table, like a lost little girl. It was like someone had flicked a switch on my life and my world turned from colour, to a dull black-and-white.”
The trip to the clinic in Liverpool is written with so much emotion. The atmosphere is described as calm and welcoming with the staff, who are more than used to their share of tragedy, helping Afric come to terms with her immense loss. After the birth, baby Ruby is brought to her mother so they can spend some time together before being separated forever.
” My fingers touched the side of her cheek. Her skin was soft and perfectly tender, like a normal baby’s skin”
Gillian Binchy has written these details so well, that I almost felt like I was intruding on Afric’s privacy at the most heartbreaking moments of her life. I could feel her pain and anguish as she kisses her daughter goodbye. These chapters were the most painful to read. I cannot, for the life of me, picture myself going through that experience without having my husband beside me, to allow him the chance to say goodbye too, and while Afric was trying to protect her husband from the inevitable pain, I just couldn’t identify with her decision to do this alone.
This is a work of fiction, based on the author’s experiences and is a tug-at-your-heart read, well written, raw and intense at times but with some balancing humour injected at times. I read it in a two hour period and am glad that I ran out to buy a copy as quickly as I did. I’m just raging that I didn’t know about the book sooner as I would have liked to have met the author at its launch last month. I hope the subject matter brings some serious talks into government meetings and that the process of having to travel for such traumatic procedures will become something of the past.
Highly Recommended ……………..