Life in Trauma by Dr. Chris Luke
I made a bunch of notes about this book when I listened back in March, but do you think I can find them? No. I’m cross, because my notes documented the author’s very particular insights on the combination of childhood trauma and then experiencing vicarious trauma in later life. I hope the notes turn up…
Anyway, to the book – overall, somewhat uneven. Luke championed many changes to emergency care and triage in the Irish hospital system, and was instrumental in how the effects of ‘party’ drugs were managed by paramedics and in emergency (giving him an unexpected media profile). His stories tell of under-staffing and over-crowding, but also of the dedication and compassion of the majority of doctors and nurses. By far the most curious part of this book was Luke’s description of his childhood in an orphanage, where he lived so as not to bring shame on his unwed mother (who he spent holidays with, and called ‘aunty’). It was this part that I wanted more of.
The Story of the Night by Colm Tóibín
A story told in a few distinct parts, each focusing on particular stages in the main character, Richard’s, life (essentially, it’s about growing up gay in Argentina, and through the country’s political upheavals and the AIDS crisis of the eighties).
In the past, I have enjoyed the intimacy of Tóibín’s novels, but this one felt forced. Richard, despite being in a number of potentially interesting circumstances, was an oddly flat character and I didn’t feel compelled to know what was going to happen for him next. In summary, I wasn’t convinced, and I kept wondering whether the Argentinian setting was the main point of interest or a massive distraction.
Crying in H Mart by Michelle Zauner
A grief and food memoir? Sign me up. Zauner’s story reflects on her relationship with her mother, who died of cancer when Zauner was in her twenties. She recounts scenes from her childhood, when winning her Korean mother’s approval began with trying whatever food was put in front of her.
I think food, and the memories associated with particular foods, form a big part of a person’s experience of grief, or rather the way they have a continuing bond with someone who has died. Just yesterday, I mentioned the significance of cornflake biscuits, and truly, I could write essays about each of my grandparents and my associated food memories. Zauner’s memoir is beautifully written and somehow, through descriptions of noodles, crustaceans, and crispy chicken, we learn about a mother’s love.