Out of Dublin by Ethel Rohan is as much a geography of Dublin as it is that of sorrow and personal pain. It’s a short memoir beginning with: “Two hundred and six bones hold the typical adult together. When we first arrive, our skeleton contains 300 hard slick parts the color of teeth, and then life takes out some bones.” Bones are crushed, memories burn, and scars are exposed and bloodied up, including her mother’s fingers. “Despite depression, psychosis, paranoia, and her rages, my mother loved to sing and dance and laugh. As long as she was getting her way, she could be kind, generous, and tender and enjoyed a great sense of humor.”
Out of Dublin is courageous, but also agonizingly sad and haunting. Childhood traumas, a bad relationship, and the complex dynamics of family weave together into a cathartic cartography that is both blunt and nuanced. As Rohan said in an interview with Writing.ie: “My intention is to make the truth into writing that’s artful and valuable, because the truth alone hurts too much and does no good. Recently, when I felt most afraid and confused about publishing Out of Dublin, I made myself sit in my garden, close my eyes, listen to the birds, and feel the gold of the sun on my face.”
The sun can be scorching if you bask in it too long. Truths can melt at 5,778K. I’ve never been to Dublin. But I’ve seen a glimpse of it in Rohan’s writing. There’s sorrow, but also hope, sin, mixed with redemption, and an escape, an emergence.