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This is Me: Memoirs of a Life in Progress by Margaret Byrne

Writing.ie | Book Reviews | Memoir

By Grace O’Reilly

Given to me as a gift from a friend, this book called This is Me – Memoirs of a Life in Progress is a self-published book by indie author Margaret Byrne.  It was published in 2019, and was prepared and edited by Lisa Fay-Devin.  Dedicated to her parents John and Kate Byrne, this book whilst reminiscing some happy thoughts and memories, is also an autobiography of Margaret’s life and deals with some not so happy and sensitive subject matters.  There are numerous black and white photographs from throughout Margaret’s life within this book.

The contents page has two feet printed under the word Contents, which is fitting for a journey book.  People often think of a journey as somewhere you go on a trip or on a holiday, and the feet are an indicator of that, but a journey is often a place where life takes you, rather than a place you go to physically.  Although to be fair in everybody’s life there is a variety of both types of journeys thrown into the mix.  After all “variety is the spice of life”, said William Cowper in his poem entitled The Task, in 1785.  The full line from the poet’s poem goes,

“Variety is the spice of life,

That gives it all its flavor.”

Being abandoned as a baby, life in an orphanage, being adopted, issues in school, the pressure to do well in life, making a multitude of mistakes, teenage pregnancy, alcoholism, and sexual abuse are all things that are covered within this book.  The brightly orange covers make me personally think of a tranquil summer set, but the stories within the bound pages are certainly not tranquil, filled with the emotions of pain and the rawness is penned into the book in a conversational style, that really brings the reader into the book.

The blurb at the back of the book reads as follows:

“At just shy of her sixtieth year, Margaret Byrne sat down in the sunroom of her small, isolated mountain cottage in County Wexford and began to commit to paper the fascinating story of her life to date.  Her mother had just passed away and she found herself being drawn back to her early childhood, which had begun in an orphanage ward in a Dublin hospital.

From these anonymous beginnings right up to carving out a new life in the hills of Wexford, with her elderly mother and her own adopted son, Margaret’s short story is wrought with difficulties.  A reckless nature often found her embroiled in trouble, but generally it is broken systems that take responsibility for the darker chapters of the book.  These chapters encompass a range of topics, from debt to incest and sexual abuse, and it is clear that Margaret’s Ireland has often been an extraordinarily difficult place for a vulnerable woman.”

An interesting read, and one that can easily been read in one sitting with a pot of tea, although the material read may take longer to digest.  It is very well written, and feels like Margaret herself is speaking to you, (the reader).  For some who have experienced similar situations first hand, I would urge you to dip your toe, (or finger) lightly into the book before becoming too engrossed in case it triggers Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, (PTSD) and unsettles you.

Definitely a great read if you are studying to be a counsellor or therapist as it covers a broad range of areas, useful to one’s career in this type of field.

Margaret Byrne has bared her heart and soul into this book, and for that alone, I applaud her, for her bravery and honesty, as that can’t have been easy.

(c) Grace O’Reilly

Order your copy online here.

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