JP Rodgers: For the love of my mother
Hundreds of ‘misery memoirs’ have been written in the last 20 years by a group of emerging Irish writers who want nothing more than to reveal the details of their miserable childhood. Amongst the earliest and most successful was the late Frank McCourt’s Angela’s Ashes, but the offerings on the whole have been poorly written, by people who simply wanted to get something important ‘off their chests’. The themes invariably include poverty, violence, drunkenness, desertion, abusive priests and nuns, cruelty of workhouses and laundries, intolerance, separation of unmarried mothers from their new born child, and the unchecked authoritarianism of the Catholic church.
JP Rodgers is one of this band of writers, writing his first published book in later life, and the child of one such unmarried mother, who was put out for adoption while his mother remained incarcerated in one of the notorious laundries run by nuns. His mother managed to escape (climbing over a wall) after almost 30 years in an institution, and in the fullness of time, along a route fraught with trauma, she eventually re-connected with her son and lived her twilight years with the love and support of family around her.
I applaud JP Rodgers for his efforts. It does fall short in many areas, especially in the re-creation of imagined dialogue and the development of characters, but he attempts to see the world of his mother through her eyes which, given that he was not even born during much of the story, nor had he even made any contact with her until later life, requires a huge shift of the imagination. Most memoirs are classed as ‘creative non-fiction’. The author cannot conceivably know or remember everything, but JP Rodgers does a valiant job of bringing the life story of his mother alive.