BOOK REVIEW OF Noria, by McCollonough Ceili
Preview The first thing that strikes you about Noria: A Collection of True Stories and Legends from Noria is the unconventional way the author has chosen to tell her story. Casting aside the more traditional linear telling of a life, McCollonough Ceili has instead knitted together memories and poems from her childhood home, an island she calls Noria, somewhere off the coast of Ireland. True, early on we’re given a brief oral history of the origins of her people, but after this short introduction we’re essentially sitting with the author as she tells us story after story, and poem after poem, of a time gone by.
Ms. Ceili certainly has a unique story to tell, and she does so in a way that is engaging and fascinating. There are stories that many of us could relate to in some fashion, if you’ve ever lived in the country or gone for long periods separated from urban life. But there are plenty of stories that are unique and, in some cases, nearly mystical. In a number of chapters we’re instructed on what it took to be a “God Child,” from the tragic beginning to the near mythical initiation and training.
What I found to be particularly enjoyable about Ms. Ceili’s style is how she is able to document her memories without stripping away the warmth and sentimentality that should accompany thoughts of one’s childhood. We’re not just told that flowers and animals returned to life in the Spring, for example. We’re told that “Spring always meant a house smelling of onions.” Time and again we’re asked to summon all of our senses as we read through the poems and vignettes, and in doing so we share, as much as is possible, in actual memories and not just stories.
This memoir is engaging and all too brief. We don’t get a complete life story here, and in a way that adds to the sincerity of the work. Rarely are memories neat and sequential, and this book does a wonderful job of presenting a tale that feels both heartfelt and complete.
You may like this book if you enjoy the story telling in the most literal sense. If you favor Irish history and the like, you’ll enjoy this as well.
You may not like this book if you’re looking for a more traditional, linear memoir or autobiography.