A surprise 50th birthday present from her husband led her to a chance meeting with a Masai warrior, while on a safari in Africa, which changed Niamh's life forever. His words, "..a new life will await you. You cannot go back to the old life", echoed the deepest longings and also the fears of her soul. After fifty years of running away from herself and the bottled up pain inside, this unexpected oracle set her on a journey to self discovery. "It was time to grow up" and be free. She had to abandon the false identity of her tender years, "Niamh is stupid and a whore," and confront her life. This is the story of her journey and the path that she chose with the help of her remaining family and strong friends to purge herself of the past. She found a way to feel pure and whole again and the confidence that she could be what she wanted to be and to realize her own dreams and ambitions.
In her quest for answers and healing, Niamh is led to "go back to the beginning" and shares the earliest memories of her Irish roots, in a family comprising of her mother, sea-faring father, who was mostly away and two older brothers. Starting from the age of two, with memories of her earliest moulding by a dominating and controlling mother, she takes her readers progressively through the years and milestones of her tragic experiences from her first day at school onwards. In a simple, straight-forward and open style she takes a good look at herself at each stage and phase of life where she was "stuck in a bubble of fear and powerlessness" because she did not have the "tools to empower" herself, right through to the mature and confident woman she has now emerged.
The healing begins when she discovers that she was not the source of her abuse and did not have to accept the burden of guilt and shame that was thrust upon her by the bigoted and sadistic nuns in her first school, or the pedophile who raped her while at her first sleepover at a friend's, nor the preying gangsters who abducted and raped her while at a disco on holiday in Greece, nor for her failed marriage. She recognized that her singing and fantasy were coping mechanisms against the pain and shame of what was happening to her at the time, and which she later was empowered to use as a tool of self expression and healing. The book is interspersed with her songs and rhymes as she takes the reader with her through her route of escape.
This is another book exposing the horrible crimes of the "religious" men and women in the Catholic Church against the young, innocent and most vulnerable and I hated everything that I read and the people who did it. Yet, I was brought up in a convent boarding school around the same time as Niamh, but a few thousand kilometers away, and my own experience was totally different and wholesome, despite the necessary regimentation found in boarding schools. And yes, some of them were Irish!
Niamh has done what one of my favourite televangelists, Dr Robert H Schuller said in his book with the same title, "Turn your Scars into Stars". Congratulations, Niamh!
I highly recommend this book to all those living in situations of shame and abuse who need to know there can be closure and healing and a new and satisfying life out there.
12 January, 2011