Deeply personal but also expansive in its empathy with others who have suffered even worse ... 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.
Can the Irish border be described as a ‘thin place’? Never have I read such an eloquent description for the omnipresent border in our psyche ... Readers will draw their own meaning from Ní Dochartaigh’s words, and she allows space for them to ponder ... This debut is not a memoir in the traditional sense; nor is it simply a polemic about the sectarian violence that tore through the author’s childhood in Derry; instead, it combines both of these elements under the insistent gaze of the poet-writer who is always keen to draw our attention to nature ... Readers may be surprised at the depths that Thin Places explores. Do not mistake its appreciation of the natural world for anything twee or solely comforting ... This is not for the faint-hearted ... Ní Dochartaigh’s writing is generous and she leaves little for the reader to surmise in those dark days she describes in startling detail ... The darkness in her subject matter lends itself to the light, however. The natural world at large is a balm for her ... It might sound incongruous to write about the beauty of the whooper swan and the enduring effect of Troubles in the same paragraph, but Ní Dochartaigh’s manages it ... This is a book full of hope found in dark places and it confronts some of the realities of the Irish border and the enduring effect it has on our lives.
Assured and affecting ... A powerful and bracing memoir ... This is a book that will make you see the world differently: it asks you to reconsider the animals and insects we often view as pests – the rat, for example, and the moth. It asks you to look at the sea and the sky and the trees anew; to wonder, when you are somewhere beautiful, whether you might be in a thin place, and what your responsibilities are to your location.It asks you to show compassion for people you think are difficult, to cultivate empathy, to try to understand the trauma that made them the way they are.
[This] hybrid book attempts to hold the reader in place between two contrasting genres: nature writing and Troubles memoir. It is an often precarious balancing act, the two strands, one wondrous and elemental, the other violent and unsettling, sustained by the vividly descriptive prose ... In many ways, her book is a kind of emotional history of the Troubles and their aftermath, laying bare the ways in which the violence she witnessed altered her nervous system and her psyche ... Seismic, destabilising events...echo through Kerri ní Dochartaigh’s adult life and frame her narrative of belonging ... Turbulent ... Her writing of it unflinching in its intensity. I found myself by turns astonished and exhausted, enthralled by passages of sustained imaginative power, but often needing to put the book down so unrelenting is its heightened emotional pitch. And although her animist worldview bestows a sacred significance on every living thing, whether a dancing moth, a wind-bent reed or a passing urban fox scavenging for food, Thin Places is at heart a survivor’s story located in the real and brutally Darwinian world of lived experience, a world more red in tooth and claw than nature itself.
Ní Dochartaigh’s deep connection with nature aids in her recovery, manifesting on the page as a rich combination of autobiography and natural history ... Though initiates will have no trouble digesting ní Dochartaigh’s ecstatic proclamations and spiritual bent, skeptics need only look to the mounting scientific evidence linking experiences of nature to lowered levels of stress as proof that the author isn’t just leading us down the garden path, as it were ... The book is not always an easy read, as its emotions are heavy, but it works its magic when the themes coalesce—ní Dochartaigh’s connection to the natural world rising every time her personal world seems about to sink. And it’s in these moments where the writing is at its most revelatory ... At its simplest, it’s easy to read Thin Places as a looping chronology of the writer’s life and the unique way she overcame personal tragedy, but I read it more as a hymn for the natural world.
Phillips’s writing has long been infused with big ideas and a scathing analysis of American greed, corruption, and racism ... Phillips’s encyclopedic knowledge of the history of Los Angeles’s economic development and progressive politics deepens the plot of One-Shot Harry even as it becomes difficult to determine how all the threads will come together. Most are tied up by the novel’s tense climactic scenes. The loose ends that remain—including the arrival of a new domino player with a connection to Ivan Monk—hold a tantalizing promise of further adventures.
How does a person contend with coming from a place where suffering is part of its legacy? For the author of this memoir, it’s through acknowledging the mysteries and beauty of the natural world and spending time in its liminal spaces, something she learned about through her grandfather, a natural storyteller ... It takes ní Dochartaigh many years to find her way back to the most important place of all: herself. Whether she’s meditating on moths or birds or the vivid colors of her home country, it’s her own perspective on the world around her that grounds her, soothes her, and offers solace ... Thin Places can be repetitive at times, circling back to the same reflections as often as a bird maneuvering in the sky, but in a way that feels purposeful, not random. Sometimes we need to cast a light on ideas numerous times in order to really see or comprehend them ... Thin Places is a book about the danger of destructive boundaries, and how crucial it is to inhabit the spaces in our lives and in ourselves where we can find a language for what is too often considered unspeakable.
Thin Places combines memoir with nature writing, history and politics. The form allows ní Dochartaigh to explore her past, illuminating a path to where she is now ... She brings to life what we perceive to be long gone: the 'thin places' of her title are those places where the fabric between worlds is gossamer-like ... This is a sad book ... It might have been good to see more...joy – for her to evoke it with her considerable talents. But, as the best books are, Thin Places is transporting. In describing her past and examining it closely, ní Dochartaigh has written herself the home she’s been searching for.
This book...is one of those multifarious non-fictions that do well at the moment; mixing memoir, nature writing and cultural history in one unified narrative ... A moment in which she briefly transcended grief on a black shore in Iceland, following the death of her grandfather, is rendered particularly luminous. States of acceptance and even solace are attained by the author, though the gravity of the book’s tone is unremitting ... There is something dispiriting about the current narrative in nature writing that casts wild space as a simple source of replenishment to the urban human, addled by life and society and the past ... The strength of Ní Dochartaigh’s vision is that nature doesn’t have to be uncomplicatedly lovely. Her thin places are ancient burial sites, but also fields at the back of an estate or a built-up back garden with a cherry blossom tree in it ... Yet Thin Places never really offers a convincing alternative. The ambivalence and 'otherness' of the project is contradicted by a familiar language of breakdown, recovery and consolation ... Nature too readily offers up its hoard of metaphors. A starker rhetoric might be better suited to the in-between places Ní Dochartaigh evokes. One not yet owned on either side of the border between self-help and nature writing: one that doesn’t yet belong.
... luminous and achingly honest ... The memoir’s evocative style is riveting, layering images of the natural places where the author finds solace with the urban spaces where she lives most of her life ... Still, while Thin Places provides enormous insight into the Troubles and human nature, it left me with more questions than answers. While this was frustrating, I know polemics and easy solutions would’ve rung hollow. Uncertainty is far more honest — and more fun to wrestle with on the page. Perhaps, then, what Thin Places ultimately leaves us with is the courage to speak the unspeakable, even if our voices shake.
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 ... She finds hope, then, but she is fearful too of what the future may bring, citing Brexit as a potential threat to the hard-won peace in Northern Ireland. Passionate, moving and beautifully written, this is a remarkable account of trauma and ways to acknowledge and overcome it.
An evocative memoir about surviving the Troubles ... Ní Dochartaigh writes lyrical sentences, but she can be repetitive ... 'There are places that dance on the caves of our insides,' she insists. This may be true, but good luck fact-checking it. The same goes for much of this book. Even for a memoir — the genre is notoriously loose on what constitutes a fact — Thin Places is notable for its frequent dearth of specifics supporting her assertions. Writing of the murdered British soldier, for instance, she tells us that his death occurred 'less than a minute's walk from' the home she lived in when writing part of this book. This is interesting, but as presented, it's not demonstrably true ... But ní Dochartaigh's commitment to confronting her pain is beyond dispute ... Her book will inspire many trauma survivors.
Ní Dochartaigh set out to weave together a personal narrative in combination with historical facts and descriptions of the natural world, but at times the chapters failed to mold together in a sequential order. The book skirted on a thin place of understanding ní Dochartaigh’s past and trying to grasp Ireland’s traumatic history, shifting from personal anecdotes to extended sentences on the powers of nature.
There’s very little levity here, but much poignant intensity ... The acutely personal writing is often wonderfully evocative ... There are, however, stray passages in which the lyricism tips into a kind of incantatory, quasi-mystical assertion that might have been better reined in ... This heartfelt memoir, with its message on the saving grace of nature, may speak to an even wider audience than it first imagined.
Deeply personal ... Woven throughout is the connection between the destruction of the natural world and the turmoil that has plagued the Irish border and her own growth ... Ní Dochartaigh’s unique writing moves between a personal journey of healing, the fragility and importance of the environment, and a powerful call for peace.
Luminous ... The author recounts memories of a childhood consumed by loss and violence. With raw emotion, she describes many of the harrowing experiences ... Ní Dochartaigh writes poetically about her search for 'thin places' ... For the author, who has suffered from alcoholism, depression, and suicidal ideation, the wild places surrounding her hometown help release her anxieties and bring her unparalleled peace. They have become her thin places ... A beautifully written tribute to the healing power of nature.
Nimble ... In writing that’s ethereal and elliptical, she laments Ireland’s collective 'loss of connection with the natural world' and cleverly uses this 'unwilding' as a warning about the threat of extinction faced by indigenous flora and fauna, and also as a lens through which to look at the toll of oppression and violence on humanity ... By turns subtle and urgent, this offers a powerful and complex portrait of a land and its people.