Saturday, April 28, 2012

The Secret Scripture by Sebastian Barry ****

I think pretty much everyone who speaks English knows the saying, "Better late than never!"  I feel that lately it's become the best description of everything I do.  Not sure why I've gotten into this mode, but I can't seem to get anything much done in a reasonable amount of time.  I hope the above saying is true, because I'm awfully late in reviewing this book!
I think that same old adage could be used in conjunction with this book.  Is it better to find something important out eventually?  Better to know it in the end than to have never known it at all?
Roseanne McNulty is an ancient woman living in a mental health institution in County Sligo, Ireland.  No one is quite sure when she became a patient there, but the head psychiatrist is in charge of determining which patients are able to go back into society as the old building is being torn down.  Roseanne, unbeknownst to anyone else, is quietly writing down her memories & hiding them under the floorboards of her room.  Meanwhile, the psychiatrist is finding out her "official" history.  Those two differing accounts of an abused life intersect & diverge & we're left with a truth that is frightening & noble. 
One of the main themes of the book is the way that the Catholic church was able to rewrite peoples' lives at will, to either raise them up or cast them down.  Being cast down due to nothing more than being beautiful, being raised up despite committing injustices against others.
I liked Roseanne's character for a selfish reason--in many ways, she did nothing remarkable in her life.  She simply loved & survived.  I find this very refreshing because I think most of us are living rather unremarkable lives ourselves.  And in this book Sebastian Barry makes that a beautiful poetry.  She didn't single-handedly defeat the Catholic church.  She didn't do anything extraordinary.  But then again, she did.  She didn't give up.
Roseanne's story is unearthed very late, but you could definitely argue that it was better then never.  As the psychiatrist follows a very old trail, you begin to realize that those bread crumbs left behind to guide us back to where we came from are still worth following.  They might not form a straight line, but enough may still be there to find the way.
A beautiful & lyrical book.  I highly recommend this to others.