A breathtaking mix of memoir, nature writing and history: this is Kerri ní Dochartaigh’s story of a wild Ireland, an invisible border, an old conflict and the healing power of the natural world
SHORTLISTED FOR THE WAINWRIGHT PRIZE FOR NATURE WRITING – HIGHLY COMMENDED
‘A special, beautiful, many-faceted book’ Amy Liptrot
‘A remarkable piece of writing … Luminous’ Robert Macfarlane
‘Eloquent … Moving’ Sinéad Gleeson
Kerri ní Dochartaigh was born in Derry, on the border of the North and South of Ireland, at the very height of the Troubles. She was brought up on a council estate on the wrong side of town. But for her family, and many others, there was no right side. One parent was Catholic, the other was Protestant. In the space of one year they were forced out of two homes and when she was eleven a homemade petrol bomb was thrown through her bedroom window. Terror was in the very fabric of the city, and for families like Kerri’s, the ones who fell between the cracks of identity, it seemed there was no escape.
In Thin Places, a mixture of memoir, history and nature writing, Kerri explores how nature kept her sane and helped her heal, how violence and poverty are never more than a stone’s throw from beauty and hope, and how we are, once again, allowing our borders to become hard, and terror to creep back in. Kerri asks us to reclaim our landscape through language and study, and remember that the land we fight over is much more than lines on a map. It will always be ours but, at the same time, it never really was.
“A remarkable piece of writing. I don’t think I’ve ever read a book as open-hearted as this. It resists easy pieties of nature as a healing force, but nevertheless charts a recovery which could never have been achieved without landscape, wild creatures and “thin places”. It is also flocked with luminous details (moths, birds, feathers, skulls, moving water). Kerri’s voice is utterly her own, rich and strange. I’ve folded down the corners of many pages, marking sentences and moments that glitter out at me. Wow”
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“Dochartaigh takes great solace in nature, and much of the book is a meditation on the beautiful landscapes and flora and fauna that surround her … Passionate, moving and beautifully written, this is a remarkable account of trauma and ways to acknowledge and overcome it”
“What was Kerri ní Dochartaigh’s burden as a child – to exist in “the gaps between” the Catholic and Protestant communities in Northern Ireland – has become her gift as a writer. She is sensitive to the legacies of loss and trauma and highly attuned to the gifts of the natural world and the possibilities of place. This is a special, beautiful, many-faceted book”
“Powerful, unflinching … Part hymn to nature, part Troubles memoir … Vividly descriptive … Thin Places is at heart a survivor’s story located in the real and brutally Darwinian world of lived experience”
guardian, Book Of The Day
“An eloquent, moving work of politics, geography and the self. Full of wisdom and deeply engaging”
Kerri ní Dochartaigh is the author of Thin Places which was highly commended by the Wainwright Prize for Nature Writing 2021. She has written for the Guardian, the Irish Times, the BBC, Winter Papers, and others. She lives in an old railway cottage in the heart of Ireland with her family.
@kerri_ni | @kerrinidochartaigh