Sunday 25 September 2016

Fiction: The Difference by Justine Delaney

Published 15/08/2016 | 02:30

The Difference by Justine Delaney
The Difference by Justine Delaney

The most authentic narrative voice often resonates from personal experience. In her debut novel, Justine Delaney Wilson writes about what she knows all too well. Only the mother of a baby carrying the extra chromosome 21 can bear witness to the hollow comments from thoughtless doctors and monstrous clichés of Stepford wives.

Wilson Hachette Ireland €16.99

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The Difference opens with a raging political issue that is a very personal decision for many Irish women. A 17-year-old Irish boy and girl approach an abortion clinic in Ealing. It is 1986. A rabid rabble bearing placards and chanting prayers obstructs their path. The atmosphere in the waiting room is unsurprisingly sombre, and while being treated, young Beth O'Connor hears the manic prayers filter through the window. That evening, she and boyfriend, James, are back on the plane to Dublin, where she recognises another girl from the clinic. The journey was short, the memory is long.

Some 24 years later, Beth is married to Steve from New Zealand, they have one son, Alex. Steve's job has brought them from London to suburban Dublin. Their life is comfortable, albeit tedious for Beth. That is, until she becomes pregnant at 41 and gives birth to Ismae.

The news that her baby may have Down syndrome, is like a 'pin being pulled from a grenade'. The doctor confirms the test results, with, 'she's alert and she's healthy. Who knows? She might even end up getting a job in a nice café.' Ismae was six and a half days old.

As she grows, the power that baby Ismae wields is transformational. Beth sees the artifice that surrounds her, through a baby that cannot lie. This novel conveys mother-love in all its sad, happy, fierce power. Ismae will stay with you.

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