Thursday, April 18, 2024

The Amendments by Niamh Mulvey

The Amendments: A deeply moving, multi-generational story about love and longing
by Niamh Mulvey
ISBN 9781529079852

How do you navigate a world in which you feel like, in some fundamental way, you don't belong? What kinds of things might you do to fit in, only to spend your life running away, literally or figuratively, from the consequences of those actions, large and small? For the women in this book, these are huge questions that have serious impacts on their lives even as the culture changes around them in profound ways.

Although most of the story is set in Ireland, the book opens in a therapist's office in London, where Nell and her pregnant partner Adrienne are attending their weekly appointment. It's clear that Nell is running from her own feelings and hiding her discomfort with the idea of being a mother, admitting this to no one but herself. Shortly thereafter, we meet Dolores, Nell's mother, and learn some of her story, along with that of her mother, Brigid. Along the way, Some of Nell's friends are introduced, some of whom will play a major role in subsequent events and some of whom will be more peripheral. One thread running throughout these women's stories is the massive cultural changes taking place in Ireland regarding the role of the church, women's reproductive rights, attitudes towards gay people, family roles, and more. The title refers to the various amendments around abortion that were voted on in different decades, which may lead to the impression that the book is primarily structured around these events. It is true that this is an underlying theme, but for me it was mostly in the background and wasn't the primary focus.

This is an excellent book. Niamh Mulvey skillfully captures the confusion, tension, and discombobulation people feel when the culture is changing around them in ways that strike at the heart of their essential identities. She also beautifully illustrates the pain of feeling like there is nowhere to belong, to always feel peripheral, to feel misplaced, and to desperately seek out groups and people who will provide some sense of security and belonging. The role of shame in this book cannot be understated--particularly for women--and shame plays a big role in the events that unfold for all the women. For some, overcoming their shame is the main work they have to do.

This is a fine book. The writing is beautiful. I found the characters and their issues to be very relatable, even though my background is quite different from theirs. The larger themes are some I have struggled with in my own life. In fact, much of my life was shaped by people trying to run away from their shame and pain, which didn't work and only made things worse. As a result, I found the characters and their actions very believable. This is a book that is well worth reading and I highly recommend it.

I thank NetGalley, the publisher, and the author for a digital review copy.


Vicki said...

So happy to see you posting again!

This is the first time I've seen this book. It sounds really good, I may get a copy soon.

Shari Burke said...

Thanks, Vicki :-)

I enjoyed the book a lot. I've been reading some excellent books lately.

Lowcarb team member said...

Many thanks for the recommendation.

All the best Jan