"She wants a world where everyone loves everyone. And everyone forgives everyone. And that isn't life."
“Now, first of all, it’s a book that everyone should read,” is how Mary O’Rourke, former Fianna Fáil cabinet minister and long-serving member of the Eason Book Club on the Pat Kenny Show, opened the discussion on March’s meeting last week, offering her take on Caitríona Palmer’s new paperback, An Affair with my Mother.
A journalist by trade, whose account of her work in Bosnia had fellow book clubber Katherine Lynch hooked due to its “terrifying” descriptions, Palmer had a happy suburban childhood in Dublin, knowing for a lot of her life that she had been adopted. In her late 20s, spurred on by a desire to make a connection with the woman who had birthed her, she set out looking for Sarah, her biological mother.
Finding Sarah brought an intense new relationship into Palmer’s life, for reasons good and bad. Reconnecting with the women who had endured shame and estrangement for having a baby out of wedlock in 1970s Ireland opened old and new wounds – particularly when Sarah expressed a desire to keep their meetings private and hidden from her own husband and children.
“It’s possibly one of the most beautiful books I have ever read,” raved Katherine Lynch. “I’ve gone on journeys myself with friends who have gone through adoption stories. And there are heartbreaking lines in the book, I was crying half the time.”
Brian Kennedy agreed, adding: “What I love about this book club is that it is making me read books that I would never have read in my life before. And with this one, I got such a comprehensive view of the adoptive process.”
The panel, as ever, were joined on the phone by a listener representing another book club out there, and this one was the most out there one The Pat Kenny Show has – as yet – encountered; Jenny Quinn founded the Coppers’ Literary Society a few years ago, an online book club counting members in Ireland, the Isle of Man, the UK, Canada, and Australia.
Largely made up of Irish ex-pats, the group was set up as a way of keep in contact with friends spread across the world, with the only requirement for membership being having at least attended Copper Face Jacks, the well-known Dublin nightspot, at least once.
Of An Affair with my Mother, the Coppers’ Literary Society members were a little more reserved than the Eason Book Club readers.
“Mixed reviews,” Jenny said. “We thought it was tough to review it without sounding harsh, as it’s based on someone’s life. It’s a book that we wouldn’t normally read, but I thought it was fascinating. Caitríona wrote so eloquently about her experiences, and it is hard to imagine what it would be like to meet your mother aged 27.”
Some of the members gave up, some leafed through, and others were riveted, thinking everyone should read it, Jenny added.
Mary O’Rourke will make the selection for the April session of the Eason Book Club, with her selection being revealed on Monday’s show. She will choose from the following four books: former Greek finance minister Yanis Varoufakis’ And the weak suffer what they must?, The Hurley Maker’s Son by Patrick Deeley, Sisters and Lies by Bernice Barrington, and Kate Tempest’s The Bricks that Built the Houses.
You can listen back to the podcast of March's Eason Book Club segment below: