An Undiscovered Country
by M. A. Cumiskey

"Indeed I felt like a stranger."

After her father’s death in a supposedly targeted IRA bombing, Lorna Donnelly and her family leave for England, where they settle in and where her mother marries a butcher. But life isn’t as grand as Lorna would have imagined, especially as she and her siblings become targets for her stepfather’s unwanted advances. Once Lorna is able to escape, she sets out pursuing the dreams she thought long gone.

The novel is framed against the political unrest in Ireland that occurred from the 1960s to the 1980s, moving to the forefront of the story every now and then as Lorna finds herself on the fringes of the war, even after migrating to Britain. Partially a commentary about the connections to one’s home, the novel uses the background of the troubles in Ireland to also show the disconnect Lorna has from her country (a fact she is aware of) and how she feels like an outsider in both her native home and her adopted home. Part of that sense of not belonging is due to Lorna’s trauma, as well, since experiencing something so terrible has, in her view, barred her from living a normal life.

Sexual abuse and trauma are two difficult topics to write about, but the author manages to take care and write about them in a balanced manner. It’s not tiptoed around in the story, nor is it constantly pushed in the reader’s face. Rather, Lorna’s childhood experience and recurring trauma are realistically presented as a secret and something she cannot yet face, echoing the time and strength it takes people to come forward about their own incidents. A story of identity, trauma, hope, and recovery, this novel follows Lorna as she searches for stability and a sense of self.

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