Book Review, written by Dr. Phil Noone of ‘Miracles Appear when Loved Ones are Near’ by debut author, Ciara O’Malley (Published by Book Hub Publishing, 2020).
“One minute you’re here
Next minute you’re gone
I thought I knew just who I was
And what I’d do, but I was wrong”
Bruce Springsteen 2020
Crackling timber fire burning. Quiet Sunday and I’m reading Ciara’s incredible book. I decided to go for a walk in the woods to let the impact of this book sink a little further into my bones. And as I drove to the woods in the car, the words of Bruce’s song rattled into the pit of my being, remaining there, as the reality of how fragile life really is dawns on me.
The only sound is the hiss of timber as hundreds of tiny sparks explode, flames reaching high in the chimney as I pile more seasoned timber on the fire. Enjoying the timber smell as it envelopes my saturated aura, an aura that is so full of Ciara’s story, her world as it unfolds in Canada as she embarks on an exciting new life with David, the love of her life. Laughter, fun, love and adventure fills each page, until tragedy strikes, and David loses his life in a tragic drowning accident.
I play Bruce’s song silently in the background and am transfixed by the lyrics “One minute you’re here, next minute you’re gone”. What I know is that this book has touched me deeply. I shed tears as I read it and I suppose, for me, it captures the ‘web-love’ of life, of friendship and deeply bonded connectedness to special people in our lives. I play this one track over and over again. I decide to turn off the lights, light some candles and be just with my emotions, my thoughts and allow the profoundness of this book swamp me, envelop me and swallow me whole.
I’ve just enough light from the blazing fire to write. I totally acknowledge that this piece is entirely my own personal view, emotions, thoughts, feelings on this incredible book. Music and reading feed my soul. Educate my emotions. Open my heart to who I am, or maybe even to elements of me that over time I deny or have shut down. A denial of mortality and the diming of the fragility of human existence, a shying away from the painful realities of love and loss. I am aware from past personal experience that I find loss an incredibly difficult process to endure. It pulls me down in ways that I fail to understand, uncomprehending its power to deaden the human spirit.
Therefore, I touch your story with caution, with care. But I need not worry. This book is a story of fun, adventure, relationships, excitement, travel, new life in Canada. And then one day, life as Ciara knew it seemed over as her world, her aspirations, her life plans came crashing down.
But it is much more. This is a book about courage, hope, resilience, determination and love. It is one of the most insightful accounts of survival through grief and loss that I have ever read. Every word, every sentence, every page moves with emotional rawness. Never a straight line but a constant movement backwards and forwards through the highs and lows of life. It is written in an honest, narrative style that is compelling, gripping, raw, earthy, funny and so real. It traps and trails the heartache, utter devastation of loss and yet, it traversers the rough mountain path of survival, of hope.
It is a compelling read “I instantly thought of David, the big adrenaline junkie he was, he would have often mentioned that at some stage how he would have liked to experience a snowmobile. It felt warped to me that this was the how and the when. Another part of me for a second felt a little bit of comfort. How he could add the snowmobile onto his life of experiences. As we watched the snowmobile escort his body from the lake, we instinctively walked over to meet David” (2020, P 134). Even in this very dark moment of recovering David’s body from the frozen lake, there is a touch of humour in honouring David’s love of adventure and his wish to travel on a snowmobile.
I loved your description of the ‘Turning Point’ as a Moving Forward and not just Moving on.
Ciara has expanded the stages of grief to include ‘choice’ which is so important and explained by Ciara: “I am not going to lie or say it was easy because it was so, so hard. But never underestimate how strong you are, no matter what challenges life throws at you. To choose does not mean to simply move on, or forget about your loved one, it means you choose to navigate this new life… That is all our loved ones in spirit want for us. To try and adapt to this new life, in which they will be with us every step of the way” (2020, P176). Ciara, you are the victim, and yet, you never play the victim’s hand. Instead, you choose to travel its torturous journey. Utter love binds you to a higher purpose than that of victim. And that alone has much to teach us.
Thank you, Ciara I am deeply moved by your insights and your story.
Thank you, Dr Niall, Susan and Anne of Book Hub Publishing and to Avril Egan for your beautiful cover design. A powerhouse of a book.
Whenever I hear Bruce’s song, you will instantly come to my mind: Ciara and David. Forever Love.
Written by Dr. Phil Noone, Lecturer/Mindfulness Teacher/Practitioner. January 2021.
‘Miracles Appear When Loved Ones Are Near’ by Ciara O’ Malley is available from www.bookhubpublishing.com and selected bookstores.