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. 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.
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.
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.
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.